Published On: Sat, Mar 21st, 2020

‘Catastrophic’ impact of young people spreading virus exposed in BBC pandemic study | UK | News


Last night, in an unprecedented move, Mr Johnson unleashed new measures to curb the effect of COVID-19, after experts confirmed more than 3,900 cases in the UK. Cafes, bars and restaurants closed their doors indefinitely, alongside nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms and leisure centres in the hope of slowing the spread of the virus and limiting the impact on the NHS. The Prime Minister sent a plea to young people planning to ignore the restrictions, warning that they were “not invincible” to the virus and could pass it on to the older generation, or those with underlying health conditions.

Now, data recorded by the BBC in their “Pandemic” programme, reveals just how fatal ignoring this advice could be.

Dr Hannah Fry said: “We launched the nationwide BBC Pandemic app in January 2018.

“We needed thousand of people of different ages in different locations to catch our virus to get real detail on how people move around the country and who they come into contact with.”

The team conducted a theoretical study on users across the UK, with Haslemere selected as the outbreak of this virtual disease.

The study revealed shocking results

The study revealed shocking results (Image: GETTY/BBC)

Boris Johnson has pleaded with the UK to listen to expert advice

Boris Johnson has pleaded with the UK to listen to expert advice (Image: GETTY)

A two percent death rate today would be utterly catastrophic

Dr Hannah Fry

Users downloaded an app and were “infected” in the same way as a real virus, as and when they came in to contact with others for a prolonged period.

Professor Julia Gog, from Cambridge University, revealed how they collected a range of data from all parts of the UK’s demographic.

She said: “We got almost 29,000, these are all users who have used the app and we’ve got information on movements, locations, the contact survey, all the bits of it together.

“This is the important thing, it is distributed by age, the previous data set was mainly people over 35.”

Professor Adam Kucharski, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, explained why collecting data on young people was so vital.

READ MORE: Coronavirus bombshell: Study finds ‘origin of virus that enabled take-off’

Dr Hannah Fry revealed the results

Dr Hannah Fry revealed the results (Image: BBC)

He said: “This is fantastic, we’ve got the younger age groups, we’ve got young adults, right up to much older people.

“One of the challenges with survey data is you get much more participation in older age groups.

“To have these young groups, young professionals, is just fantastic, we don’t have this in such a scale anywhere else.”

The model was tailored to a value known as “R0,” in layman’s terms, that is the amount one person would go on to infect others.

For Ebola, it was around two additional cases for each infected person.

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The study started in Haslemere

The study started in Haslemere (Image: BBC)

It yielded a range of data

It yielded a range of data (Image: BBC)

But, for measles, it’s much higher and can see 15 to 20 people infected from one source.

Professor Gog explained: “We looked at past pandemics and the typical range is 1.5 to two.

“So what we used for the BBC Pandemic is an R0 of 1.8, not crazy high – a reasonable scenario.”

But, the effects were devastating.

The results were shocking

The results were shocking (Image: BBC)

Professor Gog added: “It infects 43.3 million people, which is just over two-thirds of the country.”

Dr Fry then explained how ignoring the Government’s advice not only allowed the virus to spread across the whole country, but could also be fatal.

She added: “43 million people? Based on data from thousands of app users, the model predicts very few parts of the country will escape infection.

“Only the most remote corners remain blue.

“But the prediction of the number of deaths is even more shocking.

“Based on the worst-case scenario of 43 million infected nationwide and then falling sick, a two percent death rate today would be utterly catastrophic.

“In the worst-case scenario, 996,877 people could be expected to die based in our data in a future pandemic.”



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