'Thousands of deaths' could have been prevented if Tory government had acted one week sooner, scientists say

'Thousands of deaths' could have been prevented if Tory government had acted one week sooner, scientists say
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"Thousands of deaths" could have been prevented in the UK if we had entered lockdown just one week sooner, according to a leading scientist.

Dr Kit Yates, co-director of Bath University's centre for mathematical biology, wrote in The Huffington Postthat "thousands of lives" could have been saved if the government acted faster.

Not only would locking down earlier have saved thousands of lives, but it would also have decreased the time for case numbers to reach manageable levels, putting the UK in a better position to begin to re-open its economy sooner, whilst still buying time to increase NHS capacity and scale up testing.

He also wrote that the UK had "ample warning of what was to come" and could have "mitigated the scale of the disaster" if community testing and contact testing hadn't been abandoned on 12 March.

Yates also questioned why the mathematical modelling community had been "remarkably quiet" on coronavirus's rapid spread throughout the UK, pointing to University of Bristol scientist Dr James Annan as one of the few who have carried out modelling.

According to Annan's research, 30,000 deaths may have been prevented if lockdown was implemented just a week earlier.

"This is all quite simple maths that every single modeller involved in SAGE was fully aware of at the time," he wrote.

Full lockdown measures were implemented in the UK on 23 March. More than 36,000 people have died of coronavirus in the UK according to the latest government figures, although the number could be higher.

Yates also pointed out the importance of the actions taken by a government once lockdown has been implemented.

Germany, which has a larger population that the UK, locked down on the same day but has had 10,000 fewer deaths. This could in part be because Germany "consistently tested more people in a typical day than the UK did in a whole week", he wrote.

Members of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) have expressed regret at not locking down sooner.

Speaking on the BBC's Coronavirus Newscast, SAGE's Professor Ian Boyd said:

I would have loved to have seen us acting a week or two weeks earlier and it would have made quite a big difference to the steepness of the curve of infection and therefore the death rate

Boris Johnson has previously defended the timing of the government lockdown, saying it was "right to make our period of lockdown coincide with the peak of the epidemic".

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