News | Published March 17 2020

UK changes course to avoid "catastrophic epidemic"

In the first of the prime minister’s daily coronavirus press conferences, Boris Johnson said the country would now change course in order to avoid the deaths of up to a quarter of a million people in this "catastrophic epidemic".

The message followed research by Imperial College London on how best to mitigate the spread of the virus.

The country’s response to coronavirus, widely believed to be the greatest change to the general public’s daily life in peacetime, has been cemented in the past days.

The World Health Organisation and other scientific establishments have warned of the risks of not taking appropriate action to prevent the spread of the virus.

Researchers at Imperial College London have analysed the virus, taking the scale of the problem in China into consideration. Their research has led to three strategies which they suggested to the government.

The first is to suppress the spread. This would break the chains of transmission, ensuring that the number of those with the virus is as low as possible in the same way China has done.

The second is to mitigate the spread, explained by Sir Patrick Vallance, the chief scientific adviser on Friday. He said: "Our aim is to try and reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely.

"Also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease."

The final suggestion was that the government do nothing, and let the virus spread.

Dr Adam Kucharksi, a disease modeller not affiliated with the Imperial study said that: "There's no simple solution to this, it is probably toughest epidemic I've ever had to analyse.”

In his address yesterday, Johnson advised against visits to pubs, clubs and theatres, and said that those who can work from home should do so.

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Authored by

Alice Jaspars
Culture Editor
March 17 2020

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