Half the British population may already be infected with the new coronavirus, according to a study based on models developed by researchers at Oxford University.
According to this work, the virus entered the United Kingdom in mid-January and – like many emerging infections – spread invisibly for more than a month until the first official records of the disease appeared in February. It is a scenario that still needs official confirmation, but if it does, it would mean that one in every thousand infected patients will need hospital treatment due to the severity of the symptoms – but most will suffer no more than very mild or none at all, explained to the Financial Times Sunetra Gupta, professor of epidemiology who led the study.
For the conclusions presented, the researchers (who are part of a Portuguese specialist, José Lourenço) used reports with data from the United Kingdom and Italy, considering the most plausible developments regarding the behavior of the virus.
It is a very different perspective from that presented by Imperial College in London, which turned out to be decisive for the choice of policies followed by the British Government.
The scenario presented by the Oxford researchers points to the idea of group immunity, that is, that the virus will stop spreading when a considerable number of people have become resistant, because they have already been infected. ” immediately start doing large-scale serological research to assess what stage of the epidemic we are in now, “argues Sunetra Gupta. Even so, the researcher recognizes that the recommended social distance is a right measure, as it allows to reduce the number of critically ill patients, in order to avoid excessive pressure on the health system during the peak of the pandemic.
If this Oxford model turns out to be true and the hypothesis of group immunity to be verified, the effect would be the possibility of the restrictions currently in force in the United Kingdom being abandoned earlier.