A top disease expert advising the government said that the U.K. should look to implement a strategy similar to South Korea’s in order to ease the lockdown measures stifling the country’s economy.
Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist and member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies that’s advising the government on the virus, said that if the rate of infection can be kept sufficiently low, the country could hope to institute contact-tracing measures similar to South Korea. The Asian country has one of the lowest mortality rates from coronavirus in the world, with 240 deaths as of Sunday.
”If we can move case numbers down low enough then I think we can look to the Korean model of how we sustain control of transmission long term,” Ferguson said in an interview with news website UnHerd on Saturday. “You need to start from a position of relatively low case numbers to implement that sort of policy.”
The U.K. government is facing growing pressure to plan for an easing of lockdown measures. Six business leaders, including billionaires Michael Spencer and Peter Hargreaves, have written to the government asking it to ease restrictions, according to the Sunday Times. Keir Starmer, the recently installed leader of the opposition Labour Party, has written to the prime minister, urging the government to work on an exit strategy.
Ferguson said that while shielding scenarios in which vulnerable people are isolated from the general population were being modeled, he thought that they were unlikely to be viable.
If the U.K. were able to successfully isolate 80% of those most at risk, “we’d still project you get well over 100,000 deaths later this year through that sort of strategy” Ferguson said. “I’m very skeptical we can get to the level of shielding which would make that a viable strategy,” he said.
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