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Coronavirus: Ministers warned UK could suffer 100,000 deaths if lockdown lifted too quickly

Ministers have been warned the death toll could soar as lockdown restrictions are lifted (PA)

2 min read

The UK could suffer more than 100,000 deaths by the end of the year if the lockdown is lifted too quickly, ministers have been warned.

One of the goverment's scientific advisers has cautioned there is "very limited room to manoeuvre" after new modelling found tens of thousands could die if lockdown restrictions are eased too quickly.

The figures, which were sent to the government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE), came as Boris Johnson is expected to set out his "road map" for reopening the economy during a TV address on Sunday.

The Prime Minister is also set to dump the government's 'stay home' message, instead asking Brits to "stay alert, control the virus and save lives".

But the modelling, carried out last week by researchers from the London School of Tropical Hygiene, Imperial College London and other research groups, concluded the death toll could soar unless aggressive steps were made to track the spread of the virus.

According to the Sunday Times, the group had modelled a range of options for exiting lockdown "to evaluate which were viable and which were not", with more than one result putting the death toll over 100,000.

The paper reports that the figures were not discussed by Cabinet during a meeting earlier this week to decide on the next steps for exiting the lockdown, but that Mr Johnson alongside Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Chancellor Rishi Sunak had opted for slower easing than demanded by some senior Tory MPs.

"Whether we get 100,000 deaths by the end of the year depends on how quickly measures are relaxed, how effective contact tracing is and whether we get on top of the situation in hospitals and care homes," the scientific adviser told the paper.

"The care home and hospital epidemics seed infection back into the community via the staff employed in those institutions. We have to control them before significant relaxation will be possible."

The warning comes amid criticism from opposition parties that ministers were too slow to enter the lockdown and had failed to protect care homes from the spread of the disease.

But a government source told the paper: "The view is that the public will forgive us for mistakes made when going into lockdown but they won't forgive us for mistakes made coming out of it."

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