The UK could experience more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths later this year if the government eases restrictions to focus on just protecting those most at risk, according to one of the country’s leading epidemiologists.
Neil Ferguson is one of the scientists who has been advising the government in its response to the pandemic.
"The people most at risk of death are in care homes or have other health conditions," Ferguson said in an interview with the 'Unherd' website.
"I am very sceptical we can get to the level of shielding which would make that a viable strategy,” he said, referring to the idea of easing restrictions for most people and focusing government efforts on those most at risk.
"If you just achieve 80 percent shielding -- 80 percent reduction in infection risk in those groups – we still project you’d get well over 100,000 deaths later this year."
The government is coming under pressure to ease some coronavirus restrictions.
Positive signs: Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London whose modelling has influenced UK government policy, says the restrictions have been working.
He said there has been an 80 to 90 percent drop in contact between people from different households, and this is believed to have brought transmission rates down.
"We’ve brought the reproduction number down somewhere in the region of 0.6 to 0.7, which (means) the epidemic is in decline now,” he said.
No time to relax: Ferguson said the challenge is that there isn't a lot of "leeway to relax without other interventions."
"So, if we want to move away from lockdown -- reopen schools, reopen workplaces, let people go shopping again -- we have to substitute other measures."