J-IDEA’s Neil Ferguson tells MPs lockdown can help NHS manage coronavirus

The Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance launched The Forum

The Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance launched The Forum at Imperial last year

Imperial’s Neil Ferguson, Director of J-IDEA, has told MPs that the current UK lockdown could keep the coronavirus outbreak at manageable levels.

Professor Ferguson was speaking to the Science and Technology Committee about the latest COVID-19 outbreak predictions.

Speaking via video link, Professor Ferguson explained that while there was some uncertainty, if current measures work as expected, then intensive care demand would ‘peak in approximately two to three weeks and then decline thereafter’.

He told the committee current predictions were that the NHS would be able to cope if strict measures continued to be followed.

Professor Ferguson, who is also Director of MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis , added: “There will be some areas that are extremely stressed but we are reasonably confident - which is all we can be at the current time - that at the national level we will be within capacity.”

Wide-scale testing

Last week, Professor Ferguson’s team published a landmark report , which analysed the likely impact of multiple public health measures on slowing and suppressing the spread of coronavirus.

The report from the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis , J-IDEA , recommended more intensive, and socially disruptive interventions to suppress transmission to low levels.

Professor Ferguson, who has been briefing the committee during the outbreak , said that it was clear that the country could not be in lockdown for a year, but wide-scale testing and contact tracing would be required to allow economies to restart.

He said: “The challenge that many countries in the world are dealing with is how we move from an initial intensive lockdown… to something that will have societal effects but will allow the economy to restart.

“That is likely to rely on very large-scale testing and contact tracing.”

The Government Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance - who launched Imperial’s policy engagement programme The Forum last year - also gave evidence to the committee.

COVID-19 response fund

This week Imperial launched a COVID-19 response fund to help accelerate Imperial’s critical work to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

The Imperial College COVID-19 Response Fund will supplement government and existing philanthropy to provide flexible support for vital projects in the university’s unprecedented efforts to tackle COVID-19 such as developing vaccines, improving diagnostics, advancing therapies, strengthening epidemiology and providing essential healthcare in the urgent race to defeat the novel coronavirus. Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or Imperial College London.

Stephen Johns
Communications and Public Affairs

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