A further 27,000 excess deaths are "likely" between now and next April under the current approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic, a former government chief scientific adviser says.
Sir David King, who has been critical of the easing of lockdown measures, told Sky's Sophy Ridge On Sunday, "we need to look at the fastest route out of COVID-19" and the current one "is not right".
He said it looked as though Downing Street's policy was to "maintain" the current level of about 3,000 new infections per day across England.
Sir David said: "What we are saying is 27,000 excess deaths are likely between now and next April if the expectation by the chief medical officer is that he would be surprised and delighted if the UK is in the same place next spring.
"If he's correct we would still have about 2,000 to 3,000 new infections in England per day and that is the number of deaths that would follow from that."
He said the rate of new infections is "almost entirely preventable and absolutely unacceptable and immoral" and said the group has called for a "zero COVID UK" and published a new report on Sunday.
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His comments come as pubs, restaurants, cafes and hair salons reopened across England on Saturday amid reports of some people apparently flouting social distancing guidelines.
Sir David, who was chief scientific adviser between 2000 and 2007, is the chairman of Independent SAGE – a rival group that is separate to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies which advises Downing Street.
He told Ridge: "The quicker we can get down to zero COVID UK the quicker we can get a full economic opening of our economies right across the United Kingdom."
Asked how that could be achieved, he suggested pubs should open up areas outdoors for punters where social distancing could be maintained.
"There are means for achieving these objectives, but we have to be patient, and if we are not patient, it's not just a second wave, but if it bumps along at 3,000 per day, that is what produces this additional 27,000 deaths.
"If we want to return to full economic growth as quickly as possible – get rid of the COVID virus."
In its report, Independent SAGE analysed the combined data from the government's daily figures, the Office for National Statistics, Public Health England and the government's report on NHS Test and Trace.
The group concluded:
- We don't know if declines in positive confirmed cases are because of fewer people getting tested or fewer people having COVID-19, or a combination of both
- ONS continues to report that a steady decline in new infections has stopped
- None of the nations mention contact tracing as a key part of their COVID response and only Scotland encourages testing
- NHS Test and Trace is not reaching enough newly symptomatic people with COVID-19
- Fewer than half of contacts are reached within three days of a person being tested (from what data is available)
- Crucial data on how many contacts are actually isolating or go on to develop symptoms is not there