Britain could suffer the WORST coronavirus death rate in EUROPE, higher than Italy or Spain, warns top scientist who says future outbreaks are ‘inevitable’ unless a successful vaccine is developed
- Sir Jeremy Farrar said increasing testing would ‘buy you time’ for NHS to prepare
- Director of the Wellcome Trust spoke amid furious row over testing numbers
- Business Secretary Alok Sharma unable to respond to the claim on TV today
- Could only say: ‘Different countries are at different stages of this cycle’
- Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID
Britain could end up with the most deaths from coronavirus of any country in European, a top scientist warned today.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said increasing testing would ‘buy you time’ to allow the health service to deal with the crisis, and there were ‘lessons to be learned from that’.
It comes amid a furious row over the number of tests carried out in the UK, with the Government insisting it can get to 100,000 per day by the end of April.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma floundered when Sir Jeremy’s comments were put to him on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
Asked three times if he agreed Britain could be one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, he did not directly answer the question.
‘Different countries are at different stages of this cycle,’ he said.
‘We are at different trajectories. What we have done with the advice that we have now set out to people, to stay at home, is precisely because we want to make sure that we have a flattening of the curve, that infection rates aren’t going up, and ultimately people’s lives are being saved.
‘We are starting to see these measures work but they will stay in place until we have advice from Sage (the Government’s scientific advisers) in terms of the evidence that is out there.’
Sir Jeremy, an infectious disease expert, also said that it was ‘probably inevitable’ there would be more waves of Covid-19 around the world unless a successful vaccine becomes widely available.
Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said increasing testing would ‘buy you time’ to allow the health service to deal with the crisis, and there were ‘lessons to be learned from that’
Business Secretary Alok Sharma floundered when Sir Jeremy’s comments were put to him on the BBC ‘s Andrew Marr show
He pointed to reports from South Korea of around 100 catching the virus a second time, suggesting those infected do not develop complete immunity, in a n interview
Sir Jeremy said it was possible the UK could end up with the worst coronavirus death rate in Europe.
‘Numbers in the UK have continued to go up,’ he told Marr.
‘And yes, the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected country in Europe.’
He said continuing testing in the community would ‘buy you time’ to deal with the crisis, giving an additional six to eight weeks to ensure health systems were up to capacity.
‘Undoubtedly there are lessons to learn from that,’ Sir Jeremy said.
Scientists from the University of Oxford have claimed a vaccine for the virus could be ready by the spring.
Responding to this, Sir Jeremy said: ‘It is my view that treatment and vaccines are our only true exit strategy from this.
‘We are determined that we don’t go through this ever again and I think the chances of second and third waves of this epidemic are probably inevitable.
‘And therefore having the right treatments to save lives and also having a vaccine in the future is going to be absolutely critical to prevent those second and third waves.’
Sir Jeremy added that there was evidence that black and other ethnic communities were more at risk from Covid-19.
He told the BBC: ‘There is some evidence growing both in the United States and here in Europe that people from BAME backgrounds are more at risk.
‘What is critical to work out is whether that is something specific to that background or is it related to other risk factors we know about – age, other illness people have: diabetes, people who are obese have been more affected, people with high blood pressure, people with heart disease, lung disease.’