New analysis from leading epidemiologists shows that broad mitigation strategies could halve global deaths from Covid-19 infections but, despite this, health systems in all countries would be overwhelmed by the pandemic.

The team from the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London called for far stricter measures to prevent transmission.

The team stated: “We estimate that in the absence of interventions, Covid-19 would have resulted in seven billion infections and 40 million deaths globally this year. Mitigation strategies focusing on shielding the elderly (60% reduction in social contacts) and slowing but not interrupting transmission (40% reduction in social contacts for wider population) could reduce this burden by half, saving 20 million lives, but we predict that even in this scenario, health systems in all countries will be quickly overwhelmed.

“This effect is likely to be most severe in lower income settings where capacity is lowest: our mitigated scenarios lead to peak demand for critical care beds in a typical low-income setting outstripping supply by a factor of 25, in contrast to a typical high-income setting where this factor is seven. As a result, we anticipate that the true burden in low-income settings pursuing mitigation strategies could be substantially higher than reflected in these estimates.”

The researchers say the implementation of rigorously enforced measures such as those adopted in France and Germany combined with mass testing could reduce global deaths by up to 95% and keep healthcare demand at realistic levels.

The authors said: “Our analysis… suggests that healthcare demand can only be kept within manageable levels through the rapid adoption of public health measures (including testing and isolation of cases and wider social distancing measures) to suppress transmission, similar to those being adopted in many countries at the current time. If a suppression strategy is implemented early (at 0.2 deaths per 100,000 population per week) and sustained, then 38.7 million lives could be saved whilst if it is initiated when death numbers are higher (1.6 deaths per 100,000 population per week) then 30.7 million lives could be saved. Delays in implementing strategies to suppress transmission will lead to worse outcomes and fewer lives saved.”