16:49 GMT21 September 2020
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    The Covid-19 pandemic which is spreading across the United Kingdom and the rest of the European mainland has led to national lockdowns. Italy and Spain have so far been been the hardest hit countries but reports from leading scientists indicate that Britain could ultimately have one of the highest death tolls in Europe.

    The United Kingdom's coronavirus death rate risks becoming the highest in Europe, scientific advisers to the UK government warned on Sunday.

    Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Welcome Trust, involved with the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, said it was possible that the UK could be hit by the virus harder than any other country in the continent.

    “It is possible... The numbers in the UK have continued to go up", he said, while speaking to Andrew Marr on the BBC. “I do hope we’re coming close to the number of new infections reducing... and the number of deaths plateauing and starting to come down".

    “But yes, the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected country in Europe", he added.

    ​Sir Jeremy lauded the model which has been carried out by the German government, which he also advises, saying that it was able to avoid the same trajectory due to widespread community testing which has allowed them time to control the spread.

    He suggested that a rigorous testing regime could buy a country a “critical six to eight weeks” allowing health facilities and equipment to prepare.

    The medical expert also raised doubts over the effectiveness of a vaccine citing hundreds of allegedly reinfected cases in South Korea.

    "It is critical to understand whether that is one viral infection that has persisted in an individual for a considerable time and has now reactivated or whether they have been infected with a second virus," said Sir Jeremy.

    He also suggested that immunity in some people may not be complete, which would have "major ramifications" for the production of a vaccine.

    ​Sir Jeremy said that it was probably "inevitable" that without a vaccine the UK would suffer from future waves of coronavirus.

    "It is my view that treatment and vaccines are our only true exit strategy from this," he said. "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".

    He added that he thinks a vaccine would ready by autumn of this year but not on a scale to vaccinate billions of people around the world.

    A Self-Inflicted Wound?

    The statement follows a report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle, which predicts that the UK will suffer 66,000 UK Covid-19 deaths by August, reaching a peak of nearly 3,000 daily. 

    If this grim picture becomes reality, it could make the UK the worst hit country in the continent, accounting for over 40% of the total deaths across Europe.

    The analysts said that the government's initial “herd immunity” policy and failing to bring in adequate social distancing measures, led to a delay in response time.

    The study by IHME also claims that other countries such as France, Spain, and Portugal will see a much lower numbers of deaths, as all of them introduced earlier and tougher lockdown measures.

    Portugal had a single confirmed death when distancing measures were imposed, while the UK had 54 as of 23 March when the social distancing restrictions were brought in.

    The United Kingdom has confirmed more than 80,000 cases of coronavirus, with more than 10,000 recorded deaths from the disease.

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    Europe, pandemic, COVID-19, coronavirus, United Kingdom
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