instagram envelope_alt facebook twitter search youtube_play whatsapp remove external_link loop2 arrow-down2

Effect of lockdown ‘yet to show in death rate’

CORONAVIRUS has killed nearly 3,000 UK patients in less than a month — far more than in France and Spain at the same stage of their outbreaks.

There have been 2,921 deaths here since the first victim succumbed in Reading 29 days ago, on March 5.

In Spain — where more than 10,000 lives have now been lost — there were only 84 fatalities in the first 29 days.

And in France, where more than 4,000 have now died, there were only 91. Worst-hit Italy, where there have been nearly 14,000 deaths, had already seen 4,825 by this point.

But the figures fuel fears that a lack of testing and vital equipment has left Britain on course to be one of the most severely affected nations.

As the death toll rose by 569 in 24 hours — and quadrupled in a week — health secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) vowed to vastly increase screening to 100,000 tests a day by the end of the month. On his return to duty from self-isolation after falling ill with the virus himself, he declared: ‘We are in the midst of a war against an invisible enemy.

‘It is a war in which all of humanity is on the same side. History has shown that when the world unites against a common foe, then we will prevail.’

More than 33,700 people have been diagnosed with the virus, including many who have recovered. And the official fatality figures only include hospital deaths, with the true total potentially 24 per cent higher.

But Jim Naismith, a professor of structural biology at Oxford university, said there was cause for optimism despite the bleak picture emerging from the statistics.

He pointed out that most patients dying now were probably infected before the full lockdown imposed by Boris Johnson on March 23.

Measures such as the closure of pubs, restaurants and schools should have brought down the infection rate.

‘Deaths lag behind infections in time, up to a month, so we will not see the effect of the strict government lockdown for a further two weeks or so,’ said Prof Naismith.

‘We must all try not to ride the emotional rollercoaster of daily totals of new tragedies, alternating between feelings of salvation or doom.’

He added there can be delays reporting deaths because NHS trusts are so busy treating patients — so the daily surges are not necessarily as sharp as they appear.

Prof Keith Neal, an infectious diseases expert from Nottingham university, said the figures were ‘much in line with expectations’.

‘The current social distancing needs to be maintained,’ he added.

A government graph released yesterday showed fatalities here are roughly on a par with Italy, France and the US at this stage of their outbreaks, but behind Spain.

However, the figures only take account of how the crisis has progressed in each country from the 50th death onwards.

NHS England medical director Prof Stephen Powis, who flanked Mr Hancock at a press conference, predicted it would be ‘a few weeks yet’ before the impact of the lockdown began to be felt.

‘We are still seeing the number of deaths increase and unfortunately I think that will continue to be the case,’ he said.