Britain's coronavirus death toll 'will be over 100,000 if lockdown lifted early', government adviser warns

A police car patrols the promenade in Brighton on Saturday. (PA)

The final number of people who die from coronavirus in the UK could be over 100,000 if the lockdown restrictions are lifted too early, a government adviser has warned.

Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London, which is helping track the spread of the disease, said lifting lockdown measures altogether could put high-risk groups in considerable danger.

Asked if younger generations should be allowed out of lockdown if the infection rate stabilises, he said that strategy would leave older people unable to be “truly isolated”.

"In practical terms, you would require a very high level of effective shielding for that to be a viable strategy,” he told UnHerd.

A man walks past a message reading “We love NHS" in the window of a closed-down pub outside The Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London on Saturday. (PA)

"If you just achieve 80 per cent shielding - and 80 per cent reduction in infection risk in those groups - we still project that you would get more than 100,000 deaths this year from that kind of strategy. 

"The most vulnerable people are also the people who most need care and most need interaction with the health system and are are least able to be truly isolated."

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world

Fact-checker: The number of COVID-19 cases in your local area

6 charts and maps that explain how coronavirus is spreading

It comes as Dominic Raab rejected fresh calls for an early easing of the coronavirus lockdown on Sunday morning.

The foreign secretary, who is deputising for Boris Johnson in the Prime Minister’s absence, said the outbreak was still at a "delicate and dangerous" stage.

People queue outside a B&Q in Wallasey, Wirral on Saturday. (PA)

Mr Raab said the Government would proceed "cautiously" in order to avoid a second peak in the outbreak.

"We are at a delicate and dangerous stage," he told Sky News's Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.

"We need to make sure that the next steps are sure-footed, which is why we are proceeding very cautiously and we are sticking to the scientific advice with the social-distancing measures at this time, whilst doing all the homework to make sure that we are prepared in due course for the next phase."

It come as the UK death toll in hospitals rose past 20,000 on Saturday, as health officials had previously hoped that in the best case scenario they could limit this figure to 20,000 or below.

Coronavirus: what happened today?

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter