Covid-19 Part 12:
Lifting lockdown may not increase deaths

Virus deaths have peaked and lockdown should be lifted quicker say top researchers

The team at The University of Oxford who first said back in March that over half the UK could have been infected, now say that the virus is ‘on the way out of the UK’. Professor Sunetra Gupta, who leads the team, says “It is plausible but unproven that the disease has already swept through and affected a large percentage of the population.”

As well as a totally inadequate over-estimate of the death rate which led to UK lockdown, the same study by Imperial College London missed the fact that the virus was likely to have reached Britain in December 2019, says Prof Gupta. Therefore, as the Imperial College London model assumed that the virus reached the UK in February or March, it showed the infection peak was yet to come (in March). However, Prof Gupta’s team said it was just as likely that mid-March was the infection peak, and many people had already recovered from the virus. 

This argument makes a lot of sense when you consider that deaths have been seen to happen at a 2, 3 or 4 weeks time lag from infection. The peak of deaths was roughly around April 17; turn the clock back 3, even 4, weeks, and the date is around 20 March. The UK entered lockdown on March 25, meaning that it is plausible that the infections peaked before lockdown started. Prof Gupta’s model also showed that a far healthier level of herd immunity was reached than first thought and that the virus was only dangerous in a very small vulnerable percentage of the population. 

Prof Gupta also says that, as I mentioned in my previous post, that the lockdown was based on the ‘worst case scenario’ from Imperial College and Neil Ferguson’s study. They said that the death rate was 1.4%, decreasing to 0.6% to account for the non-recorded infections rates; but back in March, Prof Gupta’s team said it was much more likely to be 0.1%. As time has passed, they say it could even be as low as 0.01%. 

Costs of Lockdown 

This is the first time since the second world war that normal society has been stopped so dramatically. The important question which underlies my whole review is whether our response to this situation is proportionate to the risk posed, and whether a full shutdown, considering all factors, solves more problems than it causes. In this case, Prof Gupta says that it’s likely that we would have fared better by no imposing lockdown, and focusing instead on protecting just the most vulnerable. This is extremely sensible given the fact that  large amounts of the population will be only mildly affected.

Prof Gupta said “Remaining in a state of lockdown is extremely dangerous from the point of view of the vulnerability of the entire population to new pathogens,” 

“Effectively we used to live in a state approximating lockdown 100 years ago, and that was what created the conditions for the Spanish Flu to come in and kill 50m people.”

She ended by saying that it was likely that relaxing lockdown completely wouldn’t pose a big risk to the population. 

As thousands of people lose their jobs, thousands more are furloughed and take pay cuts, and an economic crisis looms large on the horizon, I am finding it harder to believe it was worth it. My next installment talks about how it is the poor who will be the most affected by it, and those middle and upper classes can afford to preach the ‘stay at home’ message to the masses as they have less to lose. 


What do you think? Read the next installment in the Covid-19 Review here!

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