The UK death toll could surpass 100,000 if lockdown restrictions are eased too soon, leading academics have warned.
As many as 73,000 excess deaths could happen in the next year as a direct or indirect result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report published in the Lancet.
Dr Amitava Banerjee, from University College London (UCL), is the lead author on the new study.
She said: “Using data modelling on a number of different scenarios, our findings show the mortality risk for these vulnerable groups increases significantly and could lead to thousands of avoidable deaths.”
The warning came just a few days after an unnamed scientific adviser to the government also said there could be 100,000 deaths if measures were relaxed too quickly.
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They told the Sunday Times experts had modelled different policies for leaving lockdown and more than one had pushed the death toll above 100,000.
They added the government's Sage advisory committee was one of the groups to be told about the modelling last week.
The report in Lancet looked at 3.8 million health records in total.
Researchers used a calculator that provided one-year mortality risks for common conditions by age and sex.
Dr Banerjee added: “For example, we show how a 66-year-old man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has a 6% risk of dying over the next year and there are 25,000 “patients like me”
UCL’s Professor Harry Hemingway added vaccines and drugs would not be available immediately.
He said in order to prevent deaths the government needed to keep population infection rate as low as possible, trying to avoid infection in the highest risk groups.
He added the NHS should continue to deliver high-quality medical care to those vulnerable people who had not been infected with COVID-19 to ensure they did not die.