Earlier lockdown could have cut virus deaths by more than 85pc says UEA expert

Prof Ian Harvey. Photo: Bill Smith

Prof Ian Harvey. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

If the UK had entered lockdown 10 days earlier it could have reduced the number of coronavirus cases and deaths by up to 85pc, a University of East Anglia professor has said.

Ian Harvey, emeritus professor of epidemiology and public health at the UEA, said more rapid action would have brought the statistics for the UK closer in line with those of Germany.

The UK was put into lockdown on Monday, March 23, when prime minister Boris Johnson gave a televised address to the nation telling people they needed to stay in their homes.

Some of the restrictions have since been eased. But, as of June 2, there had been 277,985 total confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK, with a death toll of 39,369.

And speaking on the Politics At The Edge podcast, which is produced at the university, Prof Harvey said the numbers could have been drastically cut had lockdown began sooner.

He told presenter Clare Precey that the UK government “could and should” have locked down 10 to 12 days earlier, having seen what was happening in other European countries.

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He said: “If you look at the data that have come out, the doubling time - the time it took for cases to double in the UK, at that time was about two to three days.

“So, if you delay, and it’s easy to understand how government delays and you look at some of the SAGE minutes and you see that they were talking about ‘Well, let’s have a meeting next Monday and then let’s think about it the next day’.

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“The trouble is for every 10 days you wait, the epidemic has doubled four times over, so it’s gone up eight times in that period.

“And, I think, if you’d locked down 10 days earlier, it’s quite likely that the number of cases and hence the mortality would have been around about one-eighth of the eventual size of the problem.

“You’re then talking about something which is much closer to Germany.”

Germany has had 184,091 cases and 8,674 deaths.

To date 377 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in Norfolk’s three main hospitals, of which 122 have been at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, 143 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn and 112 at the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston.

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