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Coronavirus UK: Death toll with 30,615 with 539 new fatalities

Britain today announced a further 539 coronavirus victims, as the UK’s official death toll rose to 30,615.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab tonight described the growing number of COVID-19 fatalities as ‘tragic’, with the UK having the world’s second highest death toll – behind only the US (75,000).

And he revealed 5,600 more Britons had tested positive for the deadly virus, taking the known number of cases past 206,000. But the true size of the UK’s outbreak remains a mystery because of the controversial decision to abandon widespread testing early on in the crisis.

In Downing Street’s press conference tonight, Mr Raab painted a very clear message to Britain, saying: ‘The virus is not beaten yet.’

He confirmed that officials were now looking at ways to begin lifting lockdown restrictions as soon as was responsible, saying ‘some changes can be confidently introduced more quickly than others’. 

He would not elaborate on what might be likely to change next week, but said any change to the lockdown would be a ‘point of maximum risk’ and that moving too fast could trigger a second peak and another lockdown.

Separate figures released tonight showed the number of daily coronavirus tests has fallen below 100,000 for the fifth day in a row since reaching Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s target by the end of April.

International media has lined up to savage Britain’s coronavirus response today, describing the UK as the ‘problem child of Europe’ and calling Number 10’s response ‘the biggest failure in a generation’.

It comes after Boris Johnson yesterday confirmed that strict rules imposed under the six-week coronavirus lockdown will start to be eased on Monday.

But Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon today laid into the Prime Minister over plans to ease lockdown, warning that ditching ‘stay at home’ guidance at this point would be ‘catastrophic’.

In developments in the coronavirus crisis today:

  • The PM will address the nation to announce plans for the next phase of lockdown at 7pm on Sunday night; 
  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a £32million funding injection so doctors and chemists can stay open over the May bank holiday tomorrow; 
  • Ministers are facing demands to get a refund on PPE equipment they boasted about sourcing from Turkey after it emerged it has failed safety standards; 
  • Ministers have blamed the dramatic fall in daily tests from 122,000 to 69,000 on a ‘technical issue’, despite complaints that the figures were manipulated to make it look as it Matt Hancock’s target was hit last week; 
  • Being obese may double the risk of needing hospital treatment for the coronavirus, according to a major study;
  • Brazilian researchers say air travel was the main driver behind the spread of coronavirus. Their study found the nations hit hardest by the killer disease were ones which had busy airports accepting thousands of international flights.

The latest figures from the Department of Health show that a total of 30,615 people had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community as of 5pm on Wednesday.

NHS England today confirmed 383 more people had died in its hospitals between March 19 and May 6, aged between 28 and 100 years old.

The 28-year-old patient had no other health problems before they were diagnosed with the coronavirus, it said.

Scotland, meanwhile, announced a further 59 fatalities, and 18 more people died in Wales along with four in Northern Ireland.  

Testing has slumped for the fifth day in a row since the goal of 100,000 was met last Thursday, with 86,583 tests conducted on May 6, up from 69,463 from the day before.

Despite this, Boris Johnson has promised that Britain will manage 200,000 daily tests by the end of the month. 

Dr Jenny Harries, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, claimed this evening this was due to a ‘technical hitch’ in laboratories.  

After the cumulative death toll reached 30,000 yesterday, countries across the world have rallied to criticise the UK for its response to the pandemic.

Newspapers around the world are pointing the finger at Britain’s handling of the crisis as a ‘problem child’, not only from countries such as Germany and Australia which have been widely praised for their handling of the virus, but even from nations such as Italy and the United States where the crisis has been equally severe.

The Sydney Morning Herald ran a feature about Britain under the headline: ‘Biggest failure in a generation: Where did Britain go wrong?’ describing a ‘growing chorus’ of experts and members of the public who regarded the UK response as a ‘series of deadly mistakes and miscalculations’.

Despite the UK’s international status as a bad example, politicians are pressing forward with plans to start relaxing lockdown rules. 

Mr Raab confirmed Boris Johnson will use an address to the nation on Sunday at 7pm to set out the ‘roadmap’ to easing the lockdown – when he is expected to tell the public they will no longer face strict rules on going outdoors or travelling to the countryside.

He said: ‘This weekend the Prime Minister will set out the next steps which we can responsibly take over the following weeks, guided by the scientific advice and mindful – as we said right from the word go – of taking the right decisions at the right time.

‘Now we can start setting out how we will live and work whilst maintaining the necessary social distancing rules, we can also be clear about those measures which are still necessary to prevent a second peak.’

But the PM’s opponents have poured cold water on the ambitious plans, saying it is too soon. And two thirds of the British public admit they are afraid of going too early.  

The science on what the country should do about lockdown remains unclear.

Paramedics now routinely don what the NHS refers to as Level 2 PPE, like face masks and disposable aprons when seeing to callers

Ambulance crews work to stabilise a patient with possible COVID-19 symptoms who was found unconscious having suffered a cardiac arrest while cycling in Botley on May 6 near Southampton, England

NHS England today confirmed 383 more people had died in its hospitals between March 19 and May 6, aged between 28 and 100 years old. Scotland announced a further 59 fatalities, 18 more people died in Wales along with four in Northern Ireland

While the infection rate is falling, and government officials are discussing ways to relax the country's quarantine measures, COVID-19 still creates everyday risks for paramedics. Pictured: Sarah Morris after seeing to a patient with potential COVID-19 needing an airway procedures

Emergency Car Assistant Sarah Morris waits to doff her PPE3-level clothing in the ambulance bay of Southampton General hospital after treating a patient with possible COVID-19 symptoms

Despite the UK’s international status as a bad example, politicians are discussing plans to start relaxing the lockdown

Australia: The Sydney Morning Herald described the UK’s response as the ‘biggest failure in a generation’, pointing to a series of errors including on testing and lockdown 

Italy: This headline in Positano News said the situation in Britain was a ‘disaster’ – as Italian media wondered why the UK had failed to learn lessons from Italy’s experience  

Britain’s daily coronavirus death toll is showing continuous signs of slowing down after peaking in mid-April.  

England’s hospital death tally today is slightly lower than the 391 reported seven days ago and half that of three weeks ago, when officials reported 740 deaths on April 16. 

But grisly statistics released on Tuesday showed the true death toll had already surpassed 32,000 by April 24, meaning the true death toll could be 42 per cent higher than the official Department of Health count.

The shocking figures – compiled by the Office for National Statistics – took into account more detailed, backdated information and did not only include laboratory-confirmed cases.

It suggested Britain’s real death toll may have already exceeded 40,000.  

But a paper published today has suggested that forcing everyone to stay at home and closing all shops and businesses might have been overkill, and evidence from 30 countries across the world suggests those measures have minimal effect on the spread of the virus.

Starmer and Sturgeon blow hole in bid to ease lockdown: Labour and Scottish leaders say it’s too early to lift restrictions 

Furious Nicola Sturgeon today laid into Boris Johnson over plans to ease lockdown – warning that ditching ‘stay at home’ guidance at this point would be ‘catastrophic’.

The First Minister took an axe to the UK’s united front on coronavirus as she insisted there can be no loosening at all for at least another week – and suggesting it will be largely unchanged in Scotland for the rest of the month.

The PM is expected to set out the next phase of the response to the crisis in an address to the nation on Sunday night. He said yesterday that ‘easements’ will be outlined to the restrictions.

Downing Street played down the extent of the changes this afternoon, saying Mr Johnson told the Cabinet there would be ‘maximum caution’. But ministers have made clear the ‘stay at home’ mantra will be replaced with a more nuanced approach, while more people will be urged to return to work where possible.

Ms Sturgeon told a briefing in Edinburgh today that Mr Johnson had so far told her nothing about the proposals, and Cobra meetings had been delayed.

She warned that the crucial ‘R’ number, for how much the virus is replicating in the country, could be ‘hovering around one’ – meaning it is close to growing again – and appeared to be worse in Scotland.

Again pre-empting the Westminster government’s actions, with the results of a formal lockdown review due to be announced tonight, Ms Sturgeon said: ‘Our assessment of the evidence leads me to the conclusion that the lockdown must be extended at this stage.’

Meanwhile, Labour’s Keir Starmer has suggested lockdown must stay in place until testing capacity is much higher – after daily numbers slumped below 100,000 again. He said a track and trace regime was critical for controlling the outbreak, and ‘if that’s going to happen the planning needs to go in now because we need many many more tests than we’ve got already’.

A poll for MailOnline has also highlighted the challenge ‘coronaphobia’ will pose to the government getting the country running again.

The research by Redfield and Wilton Strategies found 62 per cent of Britons are more worried about the effects of the draconian curbs ending too early, while 38 per cent say their main concern is the havoc they are wreaking on the economy now.

Around seven in 10 believe bus and train drivers, teachers, and medical staff should have the right to refuse to go back to work, even if the government says it is safe. Some 60 per cent say the state should keep covering a proportion of people’s wages even if in theory they should be able to resume their jobs.

Closing schools, preventing mass gatherings and large events, and shutting gyms, pubs, clubs, cinemas and restaurants, however, definitely have worked.

Researchers at the University of East Anglia said the insight into which measures appeared most effective could help authorities plan their way out of lockdown. 

One of the scientists, Dr Julii Brainard, said they found clear distinctions between which measures appeared to be most and least important.

‘We found that three of the control measures were especially effective and the other two were not,’ Dr Brainard told BBC Radio 4 this morning. 

‘It pains me to say this because I have kids that I’d like to get back into education, but closing schools was the most effective single measure, followed by mass gatherings.

‘[This was] followed by what were defined… as the initial business closures. So that was the point when, in the UK for instance, they closed gyms and clubs.

‘Adding very little additional effect was the stay-at-home measure, surprisingly, and the additional business closures.’

The research chimes with an article written by World Health Organization scientist, Dr Johan Giesecke, from Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet. 

He maintains that total lockdowns are unnecessary because the virus is unstoppable.  His home nation, Sweden, has refused to shut businesses or send people home. 

Writing in an article in The Lancet, Dr Giesecke said: ‘It has become clear that a hard lockdown does not protect old and frail people living in care homes—a population the lockdown was designed to protect.

‘Neither does it decrease mortality from COVID-19, which is evident when comparing the UK’s experience with that of other European countries.’

He added: ‘COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire in all countries, but we do not see it – it almost always spreads from younger people with no or weak symptoms to other people who will also have mild symptoms. 

‘This is the real pandemic, but it goes on beneath the surface, and is probably at its peak now in many European countries. 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.’

The lockdown in Britain, however, appears to have successfully protected the NHS from an overload of sick and dying patients in need of oxygen therapy.

This was the Government’s overriding mission after footage emerged from Italy of hospitals trying to treat severely ill patients in corridors.

But the toll of the virus in the UK has still been devastating for many communities. 

Data from the Office for National Statistics today revealed that black people in England and Wales are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites. 

The risk of dying from the coronavirus was 'significantly' higher among some ethnic groups compared to white people, when age was taken into account (pictured)

After accounting for health conditions and differences in factors such as income, the risk for black people was still almost twice as high (pictured)

Data from the Office for National Statistics today revealed that black people in England and Wales are four times more likely to die from COVID-19 than whites when age was taken into account (left), and twice as likely after accounting for health conditions and differences in factors such as income

Far higher numbers of people from black and Asian backgrounds have died from COVID-19 per 100,000 people than white Britons, despite making up much less of the overall population, a report from the IFS - a respected think-tank - showed. 'Other whites' include Gypsy and Irish Travellers, and 'other ethnic group' includes Arabs

Far higher numbers of people from black and Asian backgrounds have died from COVID-19 per 100,000 people than white Britons, despite making up much less of the overall population, a report from the IFS – a respected think-tank – showed. ‘Other whites’ include Gypsy and Irish Travellers, and ‘other ethnic group’ includes Arabs

WAS BRITAIN’S LOCKDOWN A WASTE OF TIME?

Draconian stay-at-home orders and shutting all non-essential businesses had little effect on fighting coronavirus in Europe, according to a study.

But the same scientists discovered closing schools and banning all mass gatherings did work in slowing outbreaks across the continent.

University of East Anglia researchers now say relaxing the stay-at-home policy and letting some businesses reopen could be the UK’s first step to easing lockdown.

The findings throw into question whether Britain’s total lockdown – announced on March 23 – was ever necessary amid claims social distancing policies announced on March 16 curbed the crisis on their own.

Other leading scientists have claimed Britain’s COVID-19 outbreak peaked and started to decline before the official lockdown began, arguing that Number 10’s drastic policy to shut the UK down was wrong.

Transport use plummeted and fewer people were visiting GPs with tell-tale coronavirus symptoms the week before lockdown, suggesting the government’s call for the public to work from home where possible and to only take essential travel was effective enough.

UEA researchers looked at a range of social distancing measures adopted across 30 European countries. 

They cautioned that the study, 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.

Banning mass gatherings, along with closing schools and some non-essential businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, were the most effective ways at stopping the spread of the disease, the researchers found.

They said that more investigation is needed on the use of face coverings in public, as the current results, which do not support using them in public, were ‘too preliminary’. 

One of the scientists involved in the research, Dr Julii Brainard, said they found clear distinctions between which measures were more effective.

‘We found that three of the control measures were especially effective and the other two were not,’ she told BBC Radio 4 this morning. 

‘It pains me to say this because I have kids that I’d like to get back into education, but closing schools was the most effective single measure, followed by mass gatherings.

‘[This was] followed by what were defined… as the initial business closures. So that was the point when, in the UK for instance, they closed gyms and clubs.

‘Adding very little additional effect was the stay-at-home measure, surprisingly, and the additional business closures.’ 

Lead researcher Professor Paul Hunter, from UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said the study shows that school closures in Europe had ‘the greatest association with a subsequent reduction in the spread of the disease’, but it does not clarify the ongoing puzzle of whether children can pass Covid-19 to adults.

He said: ‘And it does not identify which level of school closure has the most impact, whether it is primary, junior, senior school or even higher education.

‘It’s also important to remember that our results are based on total closure, so it is possible that partial school closures could have worthwhile impacts on the spread of infection.’

Banning public and private mass gatherings was another key tool in fighting the spread of the virus.

Professor Hunter noted that the size of the current banned mass gatherings varied between countries and so the importance and impact of the scale of the individual event is still not clear.  

Government statisticians analysed the number of all COVID-19-related fatalities in England and Wales between March 2 and April 10.

Data showed the risk of dying from the coronavirus was ‘significantly’ higher among some ethnic groups compared to white people, when age was taken into account.

After accounting for health conditions and differences in factors such as income, the risk for black people was still almost twice as high. 

The reasons behind the findings remain largely ‘unexplained’, said the Office for National Statistics, which collected the data. The report did not look into whether people from BAME backgrounds are more likely to be infected in the first place. 

It follows a series of worrying studies have shown the risk of dying from coronavirus for BAME communities is several times higher, prompting for the roles of black and minority ethnic NHS workers to be reassessed. 

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) – a respected think-tank – showed the death rate among Black African Brits was three times higher than that of the white British population. 

The report on May 1 also revealed fatalities among Pakistanis were 2.7 times higher, and for people of Black Caribbean heritage the death rate was 1.8 times greater.   

On 16 April the UK Public Health England announced a formal review into the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black and minority ethnic Britons, with results expected at the end of May.

The government are ‘very concerned’ by reports of a ‘disproportionate’ impact of the disease on BAME communities, according to Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch.

A separate rival review from the Labour party is being lead by Baroness Doreen Lawrence, a campaigner and mother of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

She has been appointed as Labour’s race relations adviser by leader Sir Keir Starmer, who today tweeted: ‘There needs to be a reckoning at the end of this crisis. We must build a fairer, more equal society.

‘This is why Labour appointed Doreen Lawrence to hold an inquiry into why coronavirus is having such a disproportionate impact on our BAME communities.’ 

The PHE will also look into obesity as a risk factor, after a series of studies showing those carrying extra weight may be more severely impacted by the disease.  

Today a study of Britons revealed that being overweight or obese increased the risk of ending up in hospital with the killer infection by 1.6-fold and 2.3-fold, respectively.

Glasgow University experts trawled through data for more than 428,000 people who were part of the UK Biobank, of which 340 had tested positive for COVID-19 in hospital – one of the only places to access a test in the UK.

Obesity leads to conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, both of which are known to make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19.

But extra fat may also lead to inflammation within the body, heavily linked to grave complications. An overproduction of inflammatory markers results in what has been described as a ‘cytokine storm’, which can be deadly for coronavirus patients. 

Other scientists have suggested fat cells harbour vital immune cells needed to fight the infection, or make large amounts of a protein used by the virus to latch on to human cells.

The findings uncovered several other risk factors for hospitalisation with COVID-19, including smoking, being of BAME background and sleep apnoea. 

Glasgow University researchers found that underweight people had a 5 per cent greater risk of being admitted to hospital with coronavirus, compared to healthy people. Overweight people had a 62 per cent greater risk than healthy people, while the risk was 129 per cent higher for obese people. People of a normal weight were used as a comparison to show how they face the lowest risk from the coronavirus

Glasgow University researchers found that underweight people had a 5 per cent greater risk of being admitted to hospital with coronavirus, compared to healthy people. Overweight people had a 62 per cent greater risk than healthy people, while the risk was 129 per cent higher for obese people. People of a normal weight were used as a comparison to show how they face the lowest risk from the coronavirus

The UK's coronavirus outbreak remains on a slow downward trajectory after peaking in the middle of last month. The graphs come from yesterday's Downing Street briefing and do not include data from the past 24 hours

The UK’s coronavirus outbreak remains on a slow downward trajectory after peaking in the middle of last month. The graphs come from yesterday’s Downing Street briefing and do not include data from the past 24 hours

The number of new cases of coronavirus spiked today, according to the latest Number 10 data. The graphs come from yesterday's Downing Street briefing and do not include data from the past 24 hours

The number of new cases of coronavirus spiked today, according to the latest Number 10 data. The graphs come from yesterday’s Downing Street briefing and do not include data from the past 24 hours 

Why countries SHOULD shut their borders: Scientists find air travel is main driver of COVID-19 outbreaks as they say screening, testing and quarantining travellers is ‘a cheap solution for humanity’ 

Air travel was the main driver behind the spread of coronavirus, according to a study which adds more weight to the theory that closing borders helps avert major crises.

Brazilian researchers found the nations hit hardest by the killer disease were ones which had busy airports accepting thousands of international flights.

It may explain why the US (73,431) and UK (30,150) – which have the first and third highest air travel globally – have also suffered the most COVID-19 deaths.

China, which has the second busiest airports, grounded all its flights from the virus’ epicentre in Hubei province on January 23, within weeks of the first diagnosed case.

The US did not lockdown its airports until late March, while Britain’s borders remain open to this day and officials still aren’t routinely testing or quarantining travellers.

Damning figures show the UK quarantined just 273 out of 18.1million people who arrived in the UK in the three months before the lockdown was imposed. 

Researchers from the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, who did the study, say screening and isolating travellers may have been ‘a cheap solution for humanity’.

It comes on the back of MailOnline analysis that suggested countries which banned international travel fared better in controlling their outbreaks.

Air travel was the main driver behind the spread of coronavirus, according to a study in Brazil which comes as the UK's government policy of not screening arriving passengers comes under scrutiny (travellers arrive at Heathrow in London)

Air travel was the main driver behind the spread of coronavirus, according to a study in Brazil which comes as the UK’s government policy of not screening arriving passengers comes under scrutiny (travellers arrive at Heathrow in London)

Researchers from the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador scoured records of 7,834 airports using online flight databases to identify more than 67,600 transport routes in 65 countries (shown)

Researchers from the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador scoured records of 7,834 airports using online flight databases to identify more than 67,600 transport routes in 65 countries (shown)

Red colours in different countries represent growth rates of COVID-19. China is seen as grey because it has thought to have beat its crisis

Red colours in different countries represent growth rates of COVID-19. China is seen as grey because it has thought to have beat its crisis

The research, which has not yet been published in a journal or scrutinised by other scientists, assessed how climate, economic and air transport affected the size of outbreaks in 65 countries which had more than 100 cases.

They found climate had little effect on the virus’ spread, rubbishing the theory that hot temperatures and high humidity kill off the disease. 

And the researchers said socioeconomic factors – such as how rich a nation is or how well-funded their healthcare systems are – played a ‘mild role’.

They concluded that global air travel was the ‘the main explanation for the growth rate of COVID-19’. 

Just 273 out of 18 MILLION arrivals to the UK before coronavirus lockdown were quarantined 

Britain quarantined just 273 out of 18.1million people who arrived in the UK in the three months before the coronavirus lockdown, damning new figures reveal today.

The occupants of three flights from the outbreak ground zero in the Chinese city of Wuhan and another bringing home passengers from a cruise ship of Japan were the only ones taken to secure facilities in the UK.  

But millions more entering the UK between the start of 2020 and March 22 were able to enter freely and only advised to self-isolate, according to figures obtained by the Guardian.

It came as it also emerged the UK suffered a ‘big influx’ of coronavirus from arrivals from Italy and Spain who were not quarantined.

Mapping of the Covid-19 genome shows that UK cases come from all over the world, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs.

But a large number of cases in early March were from Europe and ‘seeded right the way across the country’ because Brits arriving back in the UK were allowed to return home.

Giving evidence to the Health and Social Care Committee this morning, Sir Patrick said that experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) had advised ministers they would have to be ‘extremely draconian’ in blocking travel from whole countries otherwise ‘it really was not worth trying to do it.’

‘Whether that was people returning from half-term, whether it is business travellers or not, we don’t know,’ he told MPs.

‘But a lot of the cases in the UK didn’t come from China and didn’t come from the places you might have expected.

‘They actually came from European imports and the high level of travel into the UK around that time.’

The team scoured records of 7,834 airports using online flight databases to identify more than 67,600 transport routes.

They found that countries with the highest volume of international flights were at the highest risk of major crises.

Writing in the study, the academics said: ‘The 2019 – 2020 world spread of COVID-19 highlights that improvements and testing of board control measures (i.e. screening associated with fast testing and quarantine of infected travellers) might be a cheap solution for humanity in comparison to health systems breakdowns and unprecedented global economic crises that the spread of infectious disease can cause.’

They added: ‘We tested the effect of three classes of predictors… socioeconomic, climatic and transport, on the rate of daily increase of COVID-19.

‘We found that global connections, represented by countries’ importance in the global air transportation network, is the main explanation for the growth rate of COVID-19 in different countries.

‘Climate, geographic distance and socioeconomics had a milder effect in this big picture analysis. 

‘Our results indicate that the current claims that the growth rate of COVID-19 may be lower in warmer and humid tropical countries should be taken very carefully, at risk to disturb well-established and effective policy of social isolation that may help to avoid higher mortality rates due to the collapse of national health systems. 

Data suggests countries that banned international travellers from entering amid the coronavirus pandemic have fared better in controlling their outbreaks.

In Europe, Norway and Denmark closed their borders to all non-citizens by March 13, within two weeks of recording their first cases of the virus. Both countries have recorded just 40 and 87 deaths per million people, respectively, compared to the UK’s 438 per million.

Data shows countries that introduced travel bans, such as Austria, have fared better.

On March 15, Austria started refusing entry to anyone without a medical certificate confirming they had tested negative for the virus within the last four days.

Travellers who could not provide proof were placed in mandatory quarantine for 14 days. Austria has suffered just 68 deaths per million of its population. 

In the southern hemisphere, both Australia and New Zealand have recorded just four deaths per million people. 

On March 19, New Zealand shut its borders to all non-citizens or permanent residents – except for spouses or children under 24. The next day, Australia followed suit. 

While the figures appear to paint a clear picture that travel bans work, British experts have told MailOnline there are likely to be multiple contributing factors.

One explanation for the lower death rates in Australia and New Zealand may be the warmer climate – as the virus is known to vulnerable to higher temperatures. 

Others may have to do with the differences in responses of each nation’s Governments.

Dr Joshua Moon, a research fellow in science policy at the University of Sussex, told MailOnline: ‘If you look at NZ, the level of communication and trust as well as the rapid testing, tracing, and isolating completely squashed the outbreak before it got out of control. The same can be said of Denmark.

Countries that banned international travellers from entering amid the coronavirus pandemic have fared better in controlling their death rates. Australia, Austria, Denmark, New Zealand and Norway imposed bans in mid-March

 Cases followed a similar trajectory. Countries that imposed bans early fended off major crises

Even when the deaths are broken down per capita, the UK still suffered much more deaths per million people

All of the countries which imposed bans in March managed to bring their infection rates down in the weeks that followed

‘Outright banning travel and trade is generally not a good idea in an epidemic because it also blocks healthcare workers from returning and PPE/testing kits from getting into the country. 

‘On top of that, if you scan for the infected, you’re only gaining a snapshot into peoples’ health when you test at a border. 

‘Those two minutes you spend getting temperatures and histories are not going to tell you much about whether a person has the disease or not.

‘Basically travel and trade often does more harm than good and the key difference between us and other island nations is the actual government response.

Paul Hunter, an infectious diseases professor at the University of East Anglia, said that banning travel would’ve made no difference because Britain probably imported most of its cases when Britons returned from ski holidays in Italy.

He said: ‘It’s difficult to compare countries based on travel restrictions alone because of all sorts of other stuff going on, such as banning mass gatherings, closing schools and stay home policies. 

‘Also different age groups, ethnic mix and poverty influence the size of epidemics.

‘I think the consensus amongst public health people is that travel bans make politicians look as through they are doing something but do little to stop the spread of an epidemic, at best delaying the epidemic for a while.

‘The damage was probably already done for the UK with people returning from winter vacations to Italy.’ 

Figures show that Italy had recorded just 800 infections by the end of the Easter holidays. 

This number would have raised eyebrows at the time but was not high enough to justify a travel ban in the UK.  

There were calls for screening at British airports at the time, but experts say this would have been unlikely to substantially reduce cases and deaths in the UK because most sufferers are infectious for days without any symptoms. 

Data suggests every carrier passed the virus onto three people before lockdown. It would mean that for every 100 infected travellers who entered the country, they would have passed it on to 300 people, and so on. 

Analysis of the figures show New Zealand and Australia have the lowest death rate out of the six countries, with just four deaths per million people. 

New Zealand was very quick to close its borders to all non-citizens and temporary visa holders, such as students. 

The ban was in place from March 19 – just two weeks after officials recorded the first case of the coronavirus, scientifically called SARS-CoV-2.

Weeks before then, on February 3, foreign travellers from China were denied entry as the Asian nation suffered its outbreak.

Now, New Zealand – home to 4.8million people – has boasted no new infections for two days in a row, with a total of 1,487 cases and 20 deaths.

Australia has also escaped lightly, recording 96 deaths and 6,849 cases in total out of its 25million population.

On February 1, Australia banned the entry of foreign nationals from mainland China, and any citizens returning from China had to self-quarantine for 14 days.  

Subsequently a ban on travellers from Iran, South Korea, and Italy was implemented as all three countries began seeing a surge in infections.

Australia closed its borders on March 20 for all non-residents, when it had recorded less than 1,000 cases. Since April 20, it has reported less than 30 new cases per day.

Norway introduced a nationwide travel ban on travellers entering the country on March 16, when cases reached the 400 mark.

On 6 April, the Norwegian Health Minister announced that the outbreak was ‘under control’. 

Official figures show the country, which has a population of 5.3million people, has now recorded 214 deaths and 7,904 cases. 

Denmark closed its borders to all non-citizens 14 March, apart from travellers with ‘credible purpose’ such as non-citizen Danish residents. 

The Scandinavian nation has seen a total of 503 deaths, while Austria has had 606 overall.

On March 17, Austria began turning away anyone from Italy, China’s Hubei Province, Iran, and South Korea, unless they had a medical certificate confirming negative test for SARS-CoV-2 in the last four days.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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