Former WHO director Professor Anthony Costello’s assertion that the UK death toll could reach 40,000 in the first wave of virus will get most of the attention today, but equally important were his thoughts about what happens after that wave passes.
Costello, Professor of Global Health and Sustainable Development at UCL, said that it might take “five or six” more waves of the virus for the population to acquire herd immunity, where roughly 60 per cent of the population is immune. To slow down the spread of the virus, the government should consider locking down around 10 per cent of the population even after it lifts the current set of restrictions: this would both help reduce the contacts of anyone with the virus while we wait for a vaccine and allow the economy to restart, he said.
He was speaking to the Health and Social Care Committee, which also quizzed the Health Secretary Matt Hancock over the government’s coronavirus statistics. The latest government figures, which show 27 coronavirus-related deaths among NHS staff and 217 in care homes, did not reflect the true death toll, Hancock said, and he was working to get more regular recording and reporting of deaths in both settings.
Elsewhere this morning, we also learned that more than 150,000 self-employed workers are not covered by the government support scheme designed specifically for that group.