BRITAIN’S coronavirus lockdown was “futile and hasn’t saved any lives”, leading experts have claimed.
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Researchers from the University of East Anglia compared how different lockdown measures affected their ‘risk ratio’ in coronavirus cases
These charts show the comparisons of each lockdown measure on the death toll
But the scientists, from the University of East Anglia, found that closing schools and banning mass gatherings did work to slow the spread.
Dr Julii Brainard, who worked on the study, said: “We found that banning mass gatherings, closing some non-essential businesses, and closing educational facilities are most strongly associated with reduced incidence after a certain lag period.
“But widespread closure of all non-essential businesses and stay-at-home policies do not appear to have had a significant effect on the number of Covid-19 cases across Europe.”
Meanwhile, Swedish researcher Dr Johan Giesecke has blasted Britain’s lockdown as “futile”.
The epidemiologist, who advises the World Health Organisation, said the UK’s death toll suggested imposing social restriction measures is not the best method of tackling the pandemic.
Sweden has not forced a lockdown, keeping open many schools, restaurants and businesses while the UK went into a complete shutdown on March 23.
Yet the most recent figures show that more than 10 times as many Brits have died of Covid-19 than in Sweden where there has been fewer 3,000 fatalities.
Referring to the high coronavirus death toll across UK care homes, he said: “A hard lockdown does not protect old and frail people living in care homes – a population the lockdown was designed to protect”.
He added: “Neither does it decrease mortality from Covid-19, which is evident when comparing the UK’s experience with that of other European countries”.
It comes as Boris Johnson is set to unveil his long-awaited “unlockdown” plan on Sunday – to gradually end the nation’s virtual house arrest.
The new study from UEA has revealed a potential blueprint for getting the UK out of lockdown.
Researchers looked at the success of different social distancing measures across 30 European countries – in terms of how effective they have been at reducing the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.
They found that closing schools, banning mass gatherings and the closure of some non-essential business, particularly in the hospitality sector, were the most effective at stopping the spread of the disease.
Enforcing the wearing of facemasks in public was not found to make an additional impact, they said.
The study author’s said that their research, which was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response at King’s College London and Public Health England, is experimental and it has not yet been peer-reviewed.
But it is hoped that the findings could help policymakers decide the next steps for carefully lifting Covid-19 lockdown measures.
Researchers looked at the number of cases and deaths taken from daily published figures by the European Centre for Disease Control.
These were compared with the start dates of different restrictions including banning mass gatherings, closing schools and businesses, stay at home orders, and wearing face masks.
It showed that the measures have been effective in controlling the spread of Covid-19, but not all interventions have been equally successful.
However, experts have said that the study’s findings should be applied cautiously as they are preliminary and based on observation.
Prof Keith Neal, an epidemiologist at the University of Nottingham, said: “The main limitation of the study is that in many countries various measures were put in place at the same time making it difficult to disentangle which effects were having an impact. The strength lies in looking at data from 30 countries.”
The new research suggests that widespread closure of all non-essential businesses like clothing stores wasn’t necessary in reducing the number of cases of Covid-19Credit: Reuters
The experts also said that the stay-at-home policy, which has seen Britain in lockdown for six weeks, had little significance on stopping the spreadCredit: Mercury Press
Professor Johan Giesecke, one of the world’s most senior epidemiologistsCredit: Rex Features
Prof Kevin McConway, emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University, also expressed his concerns over the data.
He said: “The researchers have obtained their data on numbers of cases and deaths from a reputable standard source, but that source collects and collates data from individual countries.
“There have been many concerns that deaths and cases are being counted in different ways in different countries.
“This could affect the conclusions from the modelling.”
But the academics did agree that the findings could be useful when it comes to policymaking – providing there is more scientific-backing.
Dr Joshua Moon, of the science policy research unit at the University of Sussex Business School, said: “This study would indicate that mask-wearing and stay-at-home orders could be the first to be relaxed, then others come later in a more staged approach.
“This should be coupled with intense testing, tracing, and isolating to ensure that transmission is minimised.”
But the vast majority of the population have taken to voluntary social distancing as usage of public transport has dropped significantly and large numbers are working from home.
The academic argued Britain’s lockdown strategy “only pushes the severe cases into the future” and has not prevented them, Prof Giesecke added.
He said: “There is very little we can do to prevent this spread: a lockdown might delay severe cases for a while, but once restrictions are eased, cases will reappear.”
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Despite resisting strict lockdown measures, Sweden’s Public Health Institute estimated that the country’s R number, the number of people each infected person passes the virus to, fell from 1.4 at the start of April to 0.85 at the end of the month.
Professor Giesecke has previously been critical of the pandemic modelling produced by the Imperial College London team led by Professor Neil Ferguson.
He suggested Professor Ferguson’s projected death tolls were too pessimistic and rejected suggestions that Sweden will see a mounting mortality rate, saying in a Swedish newspaper interview: “On the contrary, I think it will go down.”
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