A prominent epidemiologist in Oxford has reportedly called for a faster end to the British shutdown, saying that the coronavirus pandemic is “on its way” out of Britain after infecting as much as half the population.
Professor Sunetra Gupta says there would be a “strong possibility” that pubs, nightclubs and restaurants in Britain could reopen without serious risk from Covid-19.
The professor of theoretical epidemiology at the University of Oxford said the UK had most likely made a mistake because of the overreaction in addressing the crisis, suggesting imposing the lockdown itself was such a mistake.
Prof. Gupta told unherd.com that the government had enacted the lockdown based on Imperial College London’s worst-case scenarios.
In March, Imperial College’s operation suggested that Covid-19 had a mortality-to-case ratio of as much as 1.4%, decreasing to 0.66% when undiagnosed cases were allowed.
The Gupta team at Oxford also produced a competitive model in March, speculating that as many as 50% of the UK’s population may already be infected, suggesting an infection mortality rate as low as 0.1%, which it says is now a lot would be lower.
When asked about her updated ratio, Prof. Gupta said that the epidemic had “ largely come and is on its way to this country ” and that the rate “ would certainly be less than one in 1,000 and probably closer to one in 10,000, ” or between 0 , 1% and 0.01%.
Prof. Gupta said the government defended the closure because it was based on a plausible, “or at least possible,” worst-case scenario.
“The question is, given the cost of lockdown, should we handle a potential worst-case scenario?
“It seems to me that as the cost of locking increases, that matter is becoming increasingly vulnerable,” she said.
Prof Gupta called for a “faster exit from the lockdown” based on factors such as “who dies and what happens to the death rates”.
She said it was feasible that Britain could have fared better with the Covid-19 crisis by doing “absolutely nothing” or at least concentrating on protecting the people most vulnerable to the disease.
“Staying in a closed state is extremely dangerous from the point of view of the vulnerability of the entire population to new pathogens,” she said.
“In fact, we lived 100 years ago in a state that was close to closing, and that was what created the conditions for the Spanish flu to enter and kill 50 million people.”
Although he found it difficult to prove based on current evidence, Prof. Gupta said there was a “ strong possibility ” that the UK could return to normal without a high risk.