In order to model the likely impact of interventions in place on reducing loss of life, researchers used real-time daily data from the European Centre of Disease Control (ECDC) on the number of deaths in 11 European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.
The models focused on reproductive number – the average number of new infections generated by each infected person – and analysis found that with the current interventions remaining in place, that measures across all 11 countries will have averted between 21,000 and 120,000 deaths up to 31 March. The researchers also said that many more deaths will be averted by keeping interventions in place until transmission drops to low levels.
The research indicates that the measures that have been implemented by many European countries to mitigate the impact of Covid-19, including isolation of confirmed and suspected cases, closing schools and universities, banning mass gatherings, and most recently, wide-scale social distancing – including local and national lockdowns – may be having a significant impact.
Dr Samir Bhatt, report author and Senior Lecturer from the college’s School of Public Health, said: “It is of course a difficult time for Europe, but governments have taken significant steps to ensure health systems do not get overwhelmed. There is sound evidence that these have started to work and have flattened the curve.
“We believe a large number of lives have been saved. However, it is too soon to say if we have managed to fully control epidemics and more difficult decisions will need to be taken in the coming weeks.”
Dr Seth Flaxman, first author on the latest study from the Department of Mathematics, commented: “Even as the death toll continues to mount, we see enough signal in the data to conclude that sustained, drastic actions taken by European governments have already saved lives by driving down the number of new infections each day.
"But because these interventions are very recent in most countries, and there is a lag between infection and death, it will take longer − from days to weeks − for these effects to be reflected in the number of daily deaths.”
The report was released by the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Modelling within the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis (GIDA) and Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA), in collaboration with Imperial's Department of Mathematics. It can be accessed here.