Wednesday, February 21

UK will have worst toll in Europe



The IHME modelling forecasts that by 4 August the UK will see a total of 66,314 deaths an average taken from a large estimate range of between 14,572 and 219,211 deaths, indicating the uncertainties around it.

The newly released data is disputed by scientists whose modelling of the likely shape of the UK epidemic is relied on by the government. Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said the IHME figures on “healthcare demand” including hospital bed use and deaths were twice as high as they should be.

The IHME, which is responsible for the ongoing Global Burden of Disease study, calculated the likely need for hospital admissions and intensive care beds and projected deaths in European countries hit by Covid-19.

Looking at the measures taken by the UK to curb the spread of the disease, the institute says the peak is expected in 10 days’ time, on 17 April. At that point the country will need more than 102,000 hospital beds, the IHME says. There are nearly 18,000 available, meaning a shortfall of 85,000.

The same grim picture applies to intensive care beds. At the peak, 24,500 intensive care beds will be needed and 799 are available, the analysts predict. There will be a need for nearly 21,000 ventilators, they say. At the peak the UK will see 2,932 deaths a day, the IHME forecasts.

The death toll in other European countries that are now struggling with Covid-19 will be lower, they say. Spain is projected to have 19,209 deaths by the same date, Italy 20,300 and France 15,058. All three countries have imposed tougher lockdown measures than the UK.

In March, modellers relied on by the UK government, led by the team at Imperial College London, said deaths could reach 260,000 in the UK with no restrictions on movement, but they hoped to get deaths down to 20,000 through the lockdown strategy.

Ferguson said he did not think the predictions could be relied on. This model does not match the current UK situation, he said, adding that the numbers used by the IHME were at least twice as high as they should be for current bed usage and deaths in the NHS. Basically, their healthcare demand model is wrong, at least for the UK, he said.