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Covid-19: experts question analysis suggesting half UK population has been infected

BMJ 2020; 368 doi: (Published 25 March 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;368:m1216

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  1. Anna Sayburn
  1. London

Experts have criticised an unpublished modelling study released to the media on Tuesday 24 March that suggested that half the UK population might already have been infected with covid-19.1

They emphasised that even if the modelling turned out to be correct it would not change the current public health advice to reduce the spread of the virus.

The study, from the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, used data on the number of deaths and reported cases in the early stages of the epidemic in Italy and the UK. The researchers used mathematical modelling to estimate infection rates by fitting a “susceptible—infected—recovered” model of epidemics to the numbers of deaths seen.

The modelling made assumptions about the proportion of the population at risk of death or severe illness, the basic reproduction number of the virus, the period of time during which people are infected, and the time from infection to death …

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