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Coronavirus: NHS predicted to cope with increased demand

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The NHS should be able to cope with the coronavirus outbreak now the country is in lockdown, according to infectious diseases expert Prof Neil Ferguson.

Keeping people inside and increasing NHS staff and beds would prevent intensive care units from being overwhelmed nationally, he said.

There could still be some difficulties at a local level, he told MPs.

But there was now a “reasonable degree of certainty” the government measures would put the epidemic into decline.

People dying

There would be some resurgence of cases later, Prof Ferguson said, but these local outbreaks could hopefully be kept at a low level through more intensive testing.

Prof Ferguson, a key government adviser on the country’s response to the crisis, was responsible for the Imperial College modelling that changed the government’s approach.

It found that only the most draconian social-distancing measures would be enough to prevent the health service being overwhelmed and as many as a quarter of a million people dying.

On Wednesday, he told the science and technology MPs’ committee that the latest research suggested as many as half to two-thirds of deaths from coronavirus might have happened this year anyway, because most fatalities were among people at the end of their lives or with other health conditions.

Normal life

The peak of demand for intensive care is expected to come in two to three weeks.

The challenge the UK, and other countries, would then face, Prof Ferguson said, was how to move from a complete lockdown to a situation where some semblance of normal life could be allowed to restart, while still keeping coronavirus cases low.

Part of this would be about significantly increasing the numbers of people being tested, until a vaccine could be found.

But, Prof Ferguson added, the UK did not currently have the capacity to test on the level of countries such as South Korea.

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