THE PROFESSOR whose modelling led to the first coronavirus lockdown in March has claimed the death projections were an “underestimate”.
Professor Neil Ferguson said the first estimations did not include deaths that could have occurred if the NHS had buckled under the strain of Covid patients.
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The initial paper had been penned in March and stated that half a million people could die in the UK if the government took no action to stop the spread of the virus.
Following publication, the nation went into lockdown and businesses closed their doors and people were told to work from home.
Speaking to The Life Scientific on Radio 4 he said: "I completely stand by [it].
"If anything, it might have been an underestimate because we didn't take account of the fact of what actually happened to mortality rates if the health system collapsed, the mortality rates could have been even higher."
Cases of the virus are on the up in the UK and many people across the country have struggled to secure a test as the system struggles with capacity.
Despite a rise in cases Prof Ferguson said “we’re not in the same position we were in in March”.
He added: “We have much better surveillance in place.
"Yes, testing can always be criticised but we do have a good handle on where transmission is happening now. But I think difficult decisions will need to be made and I'm glad I'm not the ones making it, because they are about the trade-off between actually saving lives and between saving the economy and saving jobs.
"And then there are consequences to social distancing measures beyond just the economic – social and emotional consequences which are severe."
Prof Ferguson, of Imperial College London quit as a government adviser on the virus and resigned from Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) after he allowed a woman to visit him at his home during lockdown.
At that time pubs and restaurants were still closed and there were still restrictions on households mixing.
Speaking today he admitted that it was a “stupid thing for me to do”.
He added: "I made a judgement of risk, which I think probably was a valid judgement, [which was] because I'd had Covid that I would be immune, and therefore that contact would not pose a risk.
"That is exactly the wrong thing to do – telling people that you have to maintain social distancing and not doing it myself.
"I think I was also targeted by certain sections of the press and so they couldn't believe their luck in that sense, and I regret it most because of the impact on my family and those close to me, and it has been a sobering and humbling experience."
Prof Ferguson had previously been given the title of “professor lockdown” after his advice led to the government implementing the national lockdown.
He said he “didn’t particularly” like the name and he added that it took him “quite a while” to persuade people that a lockdown was the right way to go.
"And I was always very conscious of what impact it would have on society and the economy. So I've never been a complete enthusiast for the idea of locking down society. It was a last resort.”
In order to counter economic hardship the government introduced the furlough scheme – following by projects such as Eat Out to Help Out, which was designed to boost the hospitality industry.
Today Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that some restrictions would be imposed in England in order to stop a second wave of the virus taking hold.
Pubs and restaurants will have to close their doors at 10pm and the rule of six still applies.
In areas where local lockdowns are imposed other restrictions will apply.
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