A leaked government report suggests a “reasonable worst-case scenario” of 85,000 deaths across the UK this winter from Covid-19.
The document also says that if other restrictions could be reintroduced, schools would likely remain open.
But he says the report “is a scenario, not a prediction” and the data is subject to “significant uncertainty”.
However, some criticize the modeling and say that part of it is already outdated.
The document, which was seen by BBC Newsnight, was prepared for the government by the Sage Science Advisory Group, which aims to help the NHS and local authorities plan services, such as mortuary and funeral services, for winter months ahead.
Among its main assumptions, we can cite that schools will remain open and that the government’s tracing, isolation and quarantine measures will only be 40% effective in reducing the spread of Covid outside households.
It also indicates that by November “policy measures would be put in place to reduce non-family contact to half of their normal level before March 2020”. In other words, restrictions to mitigate the impact – other than school closures – could be put in place.
According to the report, these measures are expected to remain in place until March 2021.
The model attempts to calculate excess deaths in England and Wales between July 2020 and March 2021. These are deaths in excess of what would normally be expected during this period and are based on data from the ONS.
The model was adjusted to account for people who should have died because of other illnesses.
He said that in England and Wales there could be 81,000 more deaths from Covid, plus 27,000 more deaths from non-Covid causes.
In Scotland, there could be 2,600 direct deaths from Covid and 1,900 in Northern Ireland.
Besides the excessive deaths, the model also suggests how many people might need hospital treatment between November and March, including intensive care.
The figures, which scientists say carry a wide range of uncertainties, suggest that around 2.4% of those infected could be hospitalized (range: 0.0% -8.9%) with 20.5% of hospitalized patients going to ICU (range: 1.5% – 35.25) and 23.3% (range: 1.2% – 43.3%) of all hospitalized patients who died.
The model also predicts an overall infection mortality rate of 0.7% (0.0% – 9.7%).
While the model is by no means a prediction and is subject to “significant uncertainty”, the reasonable worst case scenario is used to inform government planning decisions.
However, some criticize the modeling and believe that some of the assumptions of the “sensitive official” model prepared for the Cabinet Office are wrong and that the model is unnecessary given the wide range of possible scenarios.
Professor Carl Heneghan, University of Oxford, said some of the assumptions made in the model were “implausible” and the report assumes that “we have learned nothing from the first wave of this disease”.
BBC Newsnight also spoke with local authority planning officials who say the wide range of possibilities of death and hospitalization make it unclear whether Covid-19 will have little impact or cause serious harm. catastrophic additional pressures in the months to come.
Nigel Edwards, managing director of the Nuffield Trust health think tank, said the report contained “a very wide range” of scenarios which made it “quite difficult for people to determine exactly what they should be doing.”
Professor Heneghan said these centralized global models were “unnecessary” and better local monitoring data was needed.
This is not the first “worst case scenario” proposed by government experts.
Last month, a report, commissioned by the UK’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, suggested there could be around 120,000 new coronavirus deaths in a second wave of infections this winter,
Responding to the report leaked on Friday, a UK government spokesperson said: “As a responsible government, we plan and continue to prepare for a wide range of scenarios, including the reasonable worst-case scenario.
“Our planning is not a forecast or a prediction of what will happen. It reflects a responsible government that ensures that we are prepared for all eventualities. ”
A spokesperson further said planning assumptions were being kept under review and changed as scientific and medical advice on Covid-19 developed.
There have so far been more than 330,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK and more than 40,000 people have died.
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