The UK's slow response to the coronavirus could cause up to 70,000 excess deaths according to a new study

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds a news conference addressing the government's response to the coronavirus outbreak, at Downing Street in London, Britain March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Pool

  • The UK government's strategy to tackle the coronavirus could cause between 35,000 and 70,000 excess deaths, according to new scientific study.
  • Experts who carried out the snap analysis said the government should "do more in the pursuit of suppressing the epidemic whether through enforced lockdowns or enforced social distancing rather than voluntary measures."
  • Johnson's administration has come under intense pressure to explain why it has taken less stringent measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus than other European countries.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Boris Johnson's slow response to the country's coronavirus outbreak could cause up to 70,000 more deaths more than if more dramatic action had been quickly adopted, according to a new scientific study.

The snap analysis, first reported in the Financial Times, warns that the government's strategy of merely asking people to stay at home does not go far enough to stop the disease from spreading.Advertisement

Experts at University College London, Cambridge University, and Health Data Research UK carried out the research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The team warned that the government should "do more in the pursuit of suppressing the epidemic whether through enforced lockdowns or enforced social distancing rather than voluntary measures."

The number of deaths was estimated using NHS health records from 3.8 million adults in England.
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Johnson's administration has come under intense pressure to explain why it has taken less stringent measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus than other European countries dealing with outbreaks.

Italy, France, and Spain have all introduced public lockdowns to encourage social distancing and to prevent people from leaving their homes. The UK prime minister has been much more reluctant to limit freedom in the UK and initially resisted calls to close down Britain's schools, pubs and restaurants until the end of last week.Advertisement

The UK is now currently on course to reach an Italian-level pandemic within two weeks.

Johnson continues to hold back from imposing a strict public lockdown and has instead attempted to persuade the public to change their behaviour.

However, on Sunday, multiple pictures shared on social media showed crowds of people ignoring government advice to stay two metres apart from each other and congregating in markets, parks, and other public spaces.Advertisement

The failure to mandate social distancing will have a direct effect on the level of deaths in the country, the authors of the study believe.

Dr Amitava Banjeree of University College London, the lead author, told the FT: "The UK government is currently following a partial suppression policy of population-wide social distancing, combined with home isolation of cases, as well as school and university closures, but this is currently not [mandatory]."

"Our study indicates that the government should implement more stringent suppression at population level to avoid not just immediate deaths but also long-term excess deaths," he said. Advertisement

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