In Depth

Do Boris Johnson’s new coronavirus measures mean he originally got it wrong?

Prime minister says that everyone should now avoid unnecessary social contact

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the public to avoid all unnecessary contact and travel and stay away from pubs and theatres in order to combat the increasing spread of coronavirus.

The new advice follows modelling which suggests the approach could cut the estimated coronavirus death toll from 260,000 to 20,000.

At a press conference yesterday, the prime minister said the disease was now “approaching the fast growth part of the upward curve”, with London at a more advanced stage than the rest of the country.

Deaths in the UK rose from 35 to 55 on Monday, with half of diagnosed cases in the capital.

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What are the new measures?

The prime minister has told the public to avoid unnecessary social contact, to work from home where possible and to stay away from pubs, clubs and restaurants.

People in at-risk groups will also be asked within days to stay at home for 12 weeks, while households of more than one person are being told to stay isolated for 14 days if any of them displays symptoms.

The prime minister said the advice to avoid unnecessary social contact was “particularly important for people over 70, for pregnant women and for those with some health conditions”.

Read more: Coronavirus: everything you need to know

Read more: Coronavirus: who is most at risk?

Does this mean that Johnson originally got it wrong?

The new measures are based on a study published by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team which found the “mitigation” strategy previously being pursued by the government would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths”.

The report predicted as many as 250,000 deaths if the government continued with its original plan, with ”health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over”.

Buzzfeed reports that the UK only realised “in the last few days” that its attempts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would not work. 

According to the site, the government’s plan “was found to be unworkable”, with the Imperial College report advising that “epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time”.

“Change course or a quarter of a million people will die in a ‘catastrophic epidemic’ of coronavirus - warnings do not come much starker than that,” writes the BBC’s health and science correspondent, James Gallagher.

Gallagher highlights that while the Imperial College report is new, it was not the first time Johnson’s government was told of the dangers of its approach. 

The new data, he reports, appeared “long after other scientists and the World Health Organization had warned of the risks of not going all-out to stop the virus”.

The Imperial College team says that with the correct approach of “suppression”, it is hoped deaths could be limited to the thousands or tens of thousands.

The report also suggests we may have to wait 18 months or longer for a vaccine

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