A British epidemiologist who earlier predicted the U.K. could suffer up to 500,000 coronavirus deaths has now testified the actual figure may be less than 20,000 and that the U.K. should have sufficient intensive care units to handle it.
Neil Ferguson, who is at Imperial College London and who has now contracted COVID-19 himself, made the startling turnaround in parliamentary testimony Wednesday, according to multiple reports. All of his statistics are derived from computer modeling.
While the National Health Service’s ICU needs will be pushed to the limit in various hot spots, nationwide the nation should be able to cope with the emergency, which he expects will peak in the next two to three weeks, he said.
Mr. Ferguson delivered his most recent assessment via video with Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee.
“There will be some areas that are extremely stressed but we are reasonably confident — which is all we can be at the current time – that at the national level we will be within capacity,” he said.
The remarkable change in Mr. Ferguson’s predictions came about due to new data that suggests the virus, which first infected people in Wuhan, China, last year, moves much faster than originally thought. Researchers at Oxford have now tentatively concluded that potentially half the U.K. population has already been infected, in a story first reported by The Financial Times.
Consequently, that would mean coronavirus is far less lethal than early death rates suggest.
Imperial College and Mr. Ferguson’s work have been crucial in informing the British response to the pandemic, according to English news outlets.
On March 17, he and his colleagues issued catastrophic predictions that if the U.K. did nothing more than 500,000 citizens would die from coronavirus, and that even with some mitigation efforts it “would still result in about 250,000 deaths and completely overwhelm intensive care in the NHS,” the BBC reported.
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