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Independents' Day

Lockdown stopped 470k Covid-19 deaths in UK, say researchers

Lockdown measures have had a ‘large effect’ in controlling the Covid-19 outbreak, leading to 470,000 deaths being avoided in the UK, according to new research.

It comes as the UK death toll from the virus has exceeded 40,000 – more than double the 20,000 deaths that the UK’s chief scientific advisor said in mid-March would be a ‘good outcome’.

Researchers from Imperial College London looking at the impact of lockdown and other interventions, such as school closures and social distancing, said ‘continued intervention should be considered’ to manage the coronavirus outbreak.

The team of academics assessed 11 European countries – including the UK, Spain, Italy, Germany and France - up until 4 May when restrictions started to be lifted.

They estimated around 5.1% of people in the UK had been infected by that point. This compares with 0.85% in Germany, representing one of the lowest rates, and 8% in Belgium, the highest estimate.

In a paper published today in the journal Nature, the research team said that interventions had across all countries caused the reproduction rate of the virus – known as the R number – to drop below one, leading to ‘epidemic control’.

Lockdown had a large effect on the R number, cutting it by 81%, but the impact of other interventions is harder to establish because ‘most interventions were implemented in rapid succession in many countries’ said the paper.

The analysis shows an estimated 3.1 million deaths across the 11 countries had been avoided up until the start of May as a result of lockdown and other measures, including 470,000 avoided deaths in the UK.

This is based on the researchers estimating 500,000 UK deaths would have occurred by the start of May had no interventions taken place.

The paper said: ‘We estimate that, across all 11 countries, between 12 and 15 million individuals have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 up to 4th May, representing between 3.2% and 4.0% of the population.

‘Our results show that major non-pharmaceutical interventions and lockdown in particular have had a large effect on reducing transmission. Continued intervention should be considered to keep transmission of SARS-CoV-2 under control.’

It added: ‘We find that, across 11 countries, since the beginning of the epidemic, 3,100,000 [2,800,000 - 3,500,000] deaths have been averted due to interventions.’

Meanwhile, a separate paper published in Nature today and looking at the impact of lockdown in six countries - China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the US – also found ‘large-scale anti-contagion policies are slowing the Covid-19 pandemic’.

It added: ‘Our analysis of existing policies indicates that seemingly small delays in policy deployment likely produced dramatically different health outcomes.’

As of 9am on 8 June, 287,399 people in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus - and up until 5pm on 7 June, of those who tested positive for coronavirus in the UK, 40,597 have died across all settings, according to figures from the Department of Health and Social Care.

Readers' comments (19)

  • Lockdown delayed these deaths,thats all.

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  • When those idiot scientists from the small gene pool of white, Public school Oxbridge were talking about herd immunity this is about what I reckoned, which caused me a lot of anxiety. Double the number for those needing oxygen that wasn't there. Sadly, with no vaccine, and remdesivir running out, it means this will happen, slowly, and with the beginnings of anarchy, it's going to be a long 2 years. Or, it may just die out, we just don't know yet. I say give the bloody vaccine ASAP to those who are about to die.

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  • Let's hope it does not come back to bite us

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  • if you calculate the death rates on age the death toll is estimated at 660,000 for the UK based on 2018 population statistics. so far the ONS figures are about 60,000 for excess deaths, so by the end of the year the death rate may reach over a 100,000 excess deaths. that leaves 560,000 at risk people still susceptible to death by covid if there is no vaccine. unless the mortality rates are incorrect, which is highly possible. Until you actually know how many people have been infected in the uk as a whole you cannot know who is at risk still. Perhaps , if you tested a whole county, that has been through an outbreak, you would have a better idea of general infection rates. as its not been done no one really has a clue what's going on out here.

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  • National Hopeless Service

    Yorkshire republican

    I am a from the 'gene pool of white public school Oxbridge' and I didnt believe in herd immunity. Unfounded prejudiced comments like that aren't really appropriate in the current climate.

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  • @ National Hopeless Service : but you are not even human, you are feline!
    The fur is a bit of a giveaway.

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  • The fatality rate initially quoted is 5 to 10 percent.
    From 70 million (including Eire as no barrier at the borders), that would be 3.5 to 7 MILLION deaths, not 500,000!
    No deaths were 'prevented' by lockdown, only delayed, as the plan is now to allow R to rise again: it was only 'comntrolled', not eliminated.
    We have not won or beaten it yet!

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  • Ivan Benett

    What an odd headline.
    Of course lockdown saved lives - drr that’s what it was meant to do.
    The more shocking headline should be how many lives should have been saved if not for dither in starting the lockdown, delay in getting testing, denial of a PPE shortage and Disaster in protecting the most vulnerable in Nursing Homes.

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  • Something doesn't add up here. Nowhere in the world has there yet been a noticeable second wave as lockdown is lifted. Officially there have been 300,000 confirmed cases in the UK that leaves a hell of a lot of susceptible people still out there so in theory there should be a massive second wave, but it seems to continue to fizzle out despite lockdown lifting.
    The theory that 80% of the population is actually immune due to previous Coronavirus infection actually makes a lot of sense and explains this, and also makes the antibody test irrelevant as it will not show the majority of people who have immunity.

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    I highlight the UAE: they've tested 25% of their population, case rate of approx 1.5% of tested are +ve, and death rate of

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