Almost one in seven of people hospitalised with coronavirus will die, scientists advising the government have predicted.
According to researchers at Imperial College London, 15% of those admitted to hospital with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, will lose their lives.
Of those who are hospitalised, 30% will have to be treated in intensive care, and half of those patients will die, it was predicted.
The latest data from the university’s Covid-19 Response Team led the government to augment its response to the pandemic on Monday.
Its model, based on the latest information from Italy and the UK, warned that 250,000 people would die as a result of the outbreak unless more stringent restrictions were introduced.
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As a result, Boris Johnson announced social distancing measures on Monday, telling the public to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres and all non-essential contacts and travel.
Under the new strategy of suppression, similar to that imposed by China in curtailing coronavirus, the government hopes to limit the number of deaths to 20,000.
However, Imperial College warned that such measures may have to remain in place for 18 months or more until a vaccine is available.
In its report, researchers said: “We assume that 30% of those that are hospitalised will require critical care based on early reports from Covid-19 cases in the UK, China and Italy.
“Based on expert clinical opinion, we assume that 50% of those in critical care will die and an age-dependent proportion of those that do not require critical care die.”
The government said the scientists’ updated model shows the importance of keeping the NHS free from strain.
Imperial’s team said that even with the social distancing plans set out by the government, the health system will be "overwhelmed many times over".
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The report said there was no alternative but to move to a policy of total suppression, involving the social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of family members.
Even then, it said it was "not at all certain" the strategy would succeed in the long term.
"The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound," it said.
"No public health intervention with such disruptive effects on society has been previously attempted for such a long duration of time. How populations and societies will respond remains unclear."