UK's coronavirus death toll likely to hit '100,000 or more', expert warns

A government scientist has warned that the UK’s death toll from Covid is likely to be more than 100,000 by the time the pandemic is over.

Professor John Edmunds, a member of Sage and scientist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told BBC Radio 4: ‘I think total numbers of deaths will be unfortunately measured now in those sorts of numbers, 100,000 or more.’

He warned that ‘really major additional measures’ are immediately needed to control the spread of coronavirus, with school closures being the ‘biggest lever’ available.

He said: ‘We’re in a really difficult situation. The new strain is significantly more transmissible than the old strains. So we have to take significant extra measures to stop the NHS from becoming overwhelmed with Covid patients.

‘Unfortunately we are going to have to take some really major additional measures, I can’t see any other way out of it.

‘The biggest lever that has only partly been pulled is school closures. That would have the biggest effect of a single measure and I can see that happening.’

He later added: ‘What we have to do now, and it’s horrible I know, but we have to take really quite stringent steps right now and as stringent as we can right now.’

Prof Edmunds rejected suggestions that a lack of public compliance with restrictions is a major issue, saying: ‘I don’t think that’s a major issue myself, I think people are pretty compliant.’

Boris Johnson will set out emergency measures to control the spread of coronavirus amid concerns the NHS risks being overwhelmed.

The Prime Minister will make a televised address at 8pm on Monday after coming under intense pressure to announce a new national lockdown.

Parliament will be recalled on Wednesday and Downing Street said that the move was in response to the ‘rapidly escalating’ numbers of infections following the emergence of the new variant.

Government sources indicated the UK’s chief medical officers have agreed to raise the Covid-19 alert level to five – its highest – meaning ‘transmission is high or rising exponentially’ and ‘there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed’.

The alert level is based on a recommendation by the Joint Biosecurity Centre to the chief medical officers.

The latest figures showed a further 407 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday and there were a record 58,784 more lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the UK.

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