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Aim to keep coronavirus death toll to under 20,000

Masks: People in central London PICTURE: REUTERS

AROUND 55,000 people in the UK ‘potentially’ have coronavirus at present and the aim is for fewer than 20,000 to die from the disease, the government’s chief scientific adviser has told MPs.

Sir Patrick Vallance said keeping the death toll down to that figure and below would be a ‘good outcome’ but added: ‘It’s still horrible, it’s still an enormous number of deaths and an enormous pressure on the health service.’

Stringent measures introduced on Monday should ‘have a very significant effect on the peak’ and lead to a reduction in cases and deaths after two to three weeks, he added.

During a meeting of the health select committee, chairman Jeremy Hunt asked Sir Patrick whether the expected death rate was one fatality for every 1,000 cases, which would mean that there are ‘potentially 55,000 cases’ at present.

Sir Patrick said: ‘We’ve tried to get a handle on that in Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) and if you put all the modelling information together, that’s a reasonable ballpark way of looking at it. It’s not more accurate than that.’

He warned what would happen once people are released from isolation, and no longer told to undertake social distancing, was ‘one of the big unknowns’.

Some measures may be lifted only to have to be re-imposed if the disease made a return, he added.

‘Sensible not to treat virus with ibuprofen’

TAKING ibuprofen to tackle coronavirus could harm rather than help, the government’s chief scientific adviser has warned.

Sir Patrick Vallance said it would be ‘sensible’ for sufferers to opt for paracetamol instead, as the government dropped ibuprofen from official advice on NHS websites.

His ‘precautionary’ suggestion came after the parents of four-year-old Amelia Milner, from Bristol, said her condition worsened after taking ibuprofen for Covid-19 symptoms.

Her temperature surged and she began panting and shaking.

And at the weekend, French health minister and doctor Olivier Véran warned: ‘The taking of anti-inflammatories could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol.’

Sir Patrick told the Commons health select committee yesterday that Dr Veran ‘may or may not be right, I don’t know, but the sensible thing to do would be to say don’t take it at the moment’. He added: ‘Take something else — paracetamol or something.’

Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, Dr Hilary Jones also advised taking paracetamol if people have symptoms of Covid-19.

He told viewers: ‘Sometimes you want a bit of inflammation to fight the viral infection so, in theory, paracetamol is superior to anti-inflammation.’ But he added: ‘Don’t stop taking it (ibuprofen) if you are already taking it.’

Last night, Public Health England was standing by existing guidance that ‘there is no published scientific evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of catching Covid-19 or makes the illness worse’.