March 25, 2020 / 11:20 AM / 15 days ago

UK changed its approach after ventilator demand estimate doubled, doctor says

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain toughened its approach to the coronavirus outbreak after estimates of the number of people who would need invasive mechanical ventilation in intensive care doubled, a top epidemiologist who advised the government said on Wednesday.

“The revision was basically that the proportion of patients requiring invasive ventilation, mechanical ventilation, which is only done on a critical care unit, roughly doubled,” Neil Ferguson, a professor of mathematical biology at Imperial College London, told a British parliamentary committee.

Intensive care estimates were initially too optimistic so were revised, Ferguson said, after a variety of research including an analysis of the outbreak in Italy.

Ferguson led a study that helped convince the British government to impose more stringent measures to contain COVID-19, painting a worst case picture of hundreds of thousands of deaths and a health service overwhelmed with severely sick patients.

“Since we did that initial analysis, the NHS have refined their ICU surge capacity estimates, those have more than doubled,” he said. “This current strategy being adopted now, we think in some areas of the country ICUs will get very close to capacity but it won’t be breached at the national level.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Kate Holton

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