Call to end 'harmful' UK lockdown early after sharp drop in number of deaths
Decline in death rate is about three weeks ahead of projections
A leading British scientist called for an early end to the lockdown in England because deaths and case numbers are falling faster than expected.
The decline in the death rate is about three weeks ahead of the projections used by the UK government to help guide the country out of lockdown.
According to the most recent projections from the government’s modelling committee on February 10, estimates showed daily Covid-19 deaths in England would not fall below 200 until mid-March, but that milestone was reached on February 25.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would be driven by “data and not dates” when easing restrictions.
Prof Mark Woolhouse from the University of Edinburgh, a member of the UK government’s coronavirus modelling group, said Mr Johnson should be looking to unlock the economy faster, based on current evidence.
"The data are indeed looking better than the models were predicting and – to the best of my knowledge – better than anyone was expecting,” Prof Woolhouse said.
“If the phrase ‘data-driven, not date-driven’ has any meaning, it must allow for the schedule for relaxing restrictions to be brought forward if the data is better than expected, not just putting the schedule back if the data is worse than expected.
“If we unlock too far, too quickly, we risk a resurgence. However, given the data, I’d hope that the government is actively considering unlocking just as cautiously but appreciably less slowly.
"Lockdown continues to be just as harmful as ever, so there is a public health imperative to relax measures as soon as it is safe to do so. An overabundance of caution is not a cost-free option."
The UK’s coronavirus modelling could have underestimated the effectiveness of vaccines in reducing the death rate.
According to real-world data from Public Health England, a single shot of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines reduces the chance of needing hospital treatment by more than 80 per cent.
More than 20 million people across the UK have received their first dose of vaccine, government statistics show.
Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter from the University of Cambridge said the death rate was halving every week.
"We all sort of hoped something like this might happen, but frankly it is better than anyone expected, I think,” he said.
Updated: March 3, 2021 03:39 PM