A scientist advising Boris Johnson’s government on the coronavirus warns the UK could end up being Europe’s ‘worst affected country’

A police vehicle and people are seen in Battersea Park, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, April 11, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville
  • The UK could be the European country “worst affected” by the coronavirus, according to scientists advising Boris Johnson’s government.
  • Sir Jeremy Farrar on Sunday, April 12 told the BBC “the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected, country in Europe.”
  • The UK’s death toll is set to surpass 10,000 on Sunday as the COVID-19 virus approaches its peak.
  • The UK government is under growing pressure to deliver more safety equipment to NHS staff.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The UK will “certainly” be one of the European nations worst affected by the coronavirus, and could end up having the biggest death toll of any country across the continent, a scientist advising Boris Johnson’s government has said.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust medical research charity, on Sunday, April 12 told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that while he was hopeful the UK was close to passing the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, the country could end up being the worst affected European country.

He said: “I do hope that we are coming close to the number of new infections reducing and, in a week or two, the number of people needing hospital reducing, and the number of deaths starting to come down.

“But numbers in the UK have continued to go up. And yes, the UK is likely to be certainly one of the worst, if not the worst affected, country in Europe.”

Farrar, who is on the SAGE committee of scientists advising the UK government’s handling of the pandemic, warned that further outbreaks of the coronavirus in the UK were “probably inevitable” until a vaccine was widely available.

“It is my view that treatment and vaccines are our only true exit strategy from this,” he told Marr.

“We are determined that we don’t go through this ever again and I think the chances of second and third waves of this epidemic are probably inevitable.

“And therefore having the right treatments to save lives and also having a vaccine in the future is going to be absolutely critical to prevent those second and third waves.”

Watch Farrar say further waves of the coronavirus in the UK are ‘probably inevitable’

He predicted that a vaccine would be developed by autumn of this year, echoing Oxford University’s Professor Sarah Gilbert,who this week said she was confident of developing a vaccine for treating the COVID-19 virus by September.

However, Farrar said, even if a vaccine was developed by later this year, it would “not be at the scale required to vaccinate maybe billions of people around the world.”

UK scientists believe social distancing measures introduced by Johnson’s government are beginning to have an impact on the spread of the virus, with the number of new cases showing signs of plateauing in recent days.

However, the UK death toll is set to surpass 10,000 on Sunday, with thousands more deaths expected in the coming days. The UK’s death toll hit 9,875 on Saturday, April 11.

Johnson’s government is under pressure to deliver more safety equipment like face masks and gloves – also known as PPE – to NHS staff amid warnings that frontline health staff are not sufficiently protected against the virus.

This weekend Home Secretary Priti Patel and Business Secretary Alok Sharma refused to apologise for a lack of PPE, with both ministers saying they were sorry if NHS staff “feel” like they don’t have sufficient equipment.

The prime minister is still continuing his recovery from the coronavirus in St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

Johnson was moved out of intensive care on Friday, April 10 and “continues to make very good progress” in his ward, according to his spokesperson’s most recent update.