A prominent Oxford epidemiologist has reportedly called for a more rapid exit from Britain’s lockdown, saying 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 erred on the side of over-reaction in its handling of the crisis, suggesting imposing the lockdown itself was one such misstep.
Prof Gupta told unherd.com the Government had brought in the lockdown based on the worst-case scenario modelling of the Imperial College London.
In March, Imperial College’s workings suggested Covid-19 had a deaths-to-cases ratio of as high as 1.4%, reducing to 0.66% when allowing for undiagnosed cases.
Prof Gupta’s Oxford team produced a rival model, also in March, speculating as much as 50% of Britain’s population may have already been infected, and suggesting an infection fatality rate as low as 0.1%, which she says would be far lower now.
Asked for her updated ratio, Prof Gupta said the epidemic had “largely come and is on its way out in this country” and that the rate would be “definitely less than one in 1000 and probably closer to one in 10,000”, or between 0.1% and 0.01%.
Prof Gupta said the Government’s defence of the lockdown was that it was based on a plausible, “or at least a possible”, worst case scenario.
“The question is, should we act on a possible worst case scenario, given the costs of lockdown?
“It seems to me that given that the costs of lockdown are mounting, that case is becoming more and more fragile,” she said.
Prof Gupta called for a “more rapid exits from lockdown” based on factors such as “who is dying and what is happening to the death rates”.
She said it was feasible Britain could have fared better with the Covid-19 crisis by doing “nothing at all” or at least by concentrating on protecting the people most vulnerable to the disease.
“Remaining in a state of lockdown is extremely dangerous from the point of view of the vulnerability of the entire population to new pathogens,” she said.
“Effectively we used to live in a state approximating lockdown 100 years ago, and that was what created the conditions for the Spanish Flu to come in and kill 50m people.”
Whilst accepting it hard to prove on current evidence, Prof Gupta said there was a “strong possibility” the UK could return to normal without great risk.