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expert comment about the possibility of having tens of thousands of deaths in the second wave

Journalists have asked for comment in response to comments made by Prof John Edmunds at the Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee evidence session on Tuesday 21st October, about the possibility of having tens of thousands of deaths in the second wave.


Prof Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, said:

“It is indeed plausible that deaths in the second wave could be in the tens of thousands, but that is only one of many scenarios – we should be cautious about taking that as the only possible outcome.  It is not a prediction.

“It is right to say that the rate of growth of deaths over the next couple of weeks is ‘baked in’ to the system, so we wouldn’t expect to see any slowing in the rise in deaths for about two weeks, even if cases do start to level off.  That scenario could bring us up to possibly a few hundred deaths per day.  It is also true that if the epidemic was then brought under control deaths could stay at that level for a considerable time.

“But it is also true that countries that are ahead of us in this second wave are not seeing those levels of deaths.

“It is also the case that the infection fatality rate is lower in the second wave than it was in the first wave.

“The most important thing, though, is that even in the possible scenario of tens of thousands of people dying if infection rates remain high, what is very obvious is that the vast majority of people who would die have not yet been infected.  This means we can do something about it.  We can protect the people who are most vulnerable to infection and severe disease – that in itself would lower the number who might die.

“So, this should not be seen as a council of despair – there are things we can do about it other than lockdowns to prevent some of these deaths.  Because many of the people who might die in one projected scenario have not been infected yet, there are all sorts of ways we can protect them from infection – we ought to be discussing this as a society now.

“Projections should not always be used to justify lockdowns – there are other things we can do.”



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