Questions raised over dossier that helped plunge England into lockdown

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 Questions were raised yesterday over the dossier that helped tip England into lockdown with its grim prediction of 4,000 deaths a day.

The projection by Cambridge University in conjunction with Public Health England (PHE) is thought to have drastically shifted Downing Street’s thinking.

It was among a number of predictions shown to the nation during Boris Johnson’s Downing Street press conference on Saturday.

But the estimate was starkly higher than other modelling results by the likes of Imperial College London.

Paperwork unearthed by the Mail shows the Cambridge model uses a timeframe twice as long as the official death toll every day by PHE.

While PHE records deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test, Cambridge’s ‘nowcast and forecast’, on which the Downing Street data was based, collates deaths within 60 days of a positive result, giving them double the sample size.

 Cambridge  and PHE  predicted  the daily death toll could reach 4,000

This could account for why the Cambridge/PHE death rate was so much higher than the others. No one was available from Cambridge to comment last night. 

The Department of Health also refused to release the official report.

But last night PHE said their model is one of ‘many’ that is sent in to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) and that these models can be ‘wide-ranging’.

Of the many slides presented at the press conference, the most startling was a graph entitled ‘England daily deaths if no changes in policy or behaviour’.

It revealed forecasts from institutions including Imperial College London, Warwick University, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Cambridge.

The Cambridge projection suggested England’s daily death toll could reach 4,000 during the height of winter – many more than at the peak of the first wave.

Imperial predicted around 2,700 deaths a day and other institutions gave estimates below 2,000. 

They all indicated that the UK was on course for a higher death toll than any predicted in reasonable worst-case scenario planning.

The Cambridge and PHE estimation far exceeded the 800 deaths a day forecast from the Sage expert committee.

 It is understood these models were in a document presented to Downing Street by scientific advisers last week, and contributed to the lockdown.

Tory MP Charles Walker said: ‘If it is the case that Sage are not making this document public, it is extraordinary given that Sage scientists fall over themselves to get on TV and radio to talk about their work and the importance of putting the UK into a deep freeze.

‘All information that is being used to support the lockdown should be put into the public domain as a matter of course and duty.’

During the press conference on Saturday, Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: ‘Different groups come up with different answers depending on their models, but what is clear from all of them, in terms of deaths over the winter, there is the potential for this to be twice as bad or more compared to the first wave.’

Other scientists have provided more conservative estimates. James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor of structural biology at Oxford University, said: ‘We do not know yet how many infections per day have occurred this week that has just ended, but it is very likely to be above 60,000 infections per day.

‘Based on those figures, we should expect and not be surprised to see a rise in deaths to around 500 per day over the next three weeks until we start to see the new measures take effect.’

Yesterday the Government said a further 162 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, bringing the total to 46,717.

 The worst daily toll so far – 1,224 – was reached on April 21.

Charities warned that thousands more lives could be lost to non-Covid illnesses. 

Fears over catching coronavirus or over-burdening the NHS stopped tens of thousands of patients from seeking medical help during the first wave.

Dr Sonya Babu-Narayan, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation and a consultant cardiologist, said: ‘Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, we have seen thousands of excess deaths caused by heart and circulatory diseases unrelated to coronavirus.

‘To prevent further avoidable deaths in the months ahead, we must ensure cardiovascular healthcare remains a priority and that people know to seek help if they are sick. 

Hopefully, by following the lockdown guidance to stop the spread of the virus, people both with and without Covid-19 will be able to receive the care they need.’

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