UK lockdown saved thousands – but could have saved more

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Electronic bilboards displays a message warning people to stay home in Sheffield as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. PA Photo. Picture date: Tuesday March 31, 2020. A total of 1,408 patients have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK as of 5pm on Sunday. See PA story HEALTH Coronavirus. Photo credit should read: Mike Egerton/PA Wire

The UK coronavirus lockdown prevented almost half a million deaths, according to researchers who warn that precautions are “necessary” to avoid a second wave.

A modelling study from Imperial College London scientists, involving data from 11 European countries up to early May 2020, found that lockdowns had a “substantial effect” in reducing transmission levels of Covid-19.

European countries began implementing social distancing, school closures and national lockdowns on dates between March 2 and March 29, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson putting the UK in lockdown on March 23.

The Imperial researchers’ model forecasted that from the beginning of the pandemic up until May 4 there would be 29,000 deaths in the UK, with the actual figure being 28,374 deaths.

Had no interventions been put in place, the researchers predicted that 500,000 deaths would have occurred, meaning that 470,000 deaths were averted up to May 4 thanks to the lockdown.

The researchers estimated that across all 11 countries – the UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland – between 12 and 15 million people were infected with Covid-19 up to May 4, representing between 3.2% and 4.0% of the population.

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