The long-term impact of the coronavirus lockdown could cause more than 70,000 excess deaths, a government report has warned.
The document, published on Friday, said, for instance, that a recession caused by the lockdown could ultimately lead to 33,000 excess deaths in the long-term.
Thousands more excess deaths could happen as a result of reduced basic healthcare services during the lockdown, the report added.
However, it also laid out the disastrous consequences of the nation not going into lockdown in March, saying this would have caused up to 1.5m direct COVID-19 deaths. The UK’s death toll as of Friday was 46,511.
On the other hand, the report also warned: “Much of the health impact, particularly in terms of morbidity, will be felt long after the pandemic is assumed to last.”
It presented scenarios including:
10,000 excess deaths “if emergency care in hospitals continues to be low” in the next 12 months. Emergency attendance and admissions have decreased since the start of the pandemic, the report said
16,000 excess deaths of care home residents if the presence of COVID-19 continues. These could occur, for example, due to the pandemic’s continued impact on adult social care provision
12,500 excess deaths in the next five years due to the delay of non-urgent treatments when the NHS was dealing with the outbreak
1,400 excess deaths as a result of primary and community healthcare services stopping during the lockdown. This could have caused missed cancer diagnoses, for example
18,000 excess deaths within the next five years as a result of a lockdown-induced recession
15,000 excess deaths beyond 2025 as a result of a lockdown-induced recession
Of the overall impact of the outbreak, the government warned: “The estimates for the health impacts from a lockdown and lockdown-induced recession are greater in terms of QALYs [quality adjusted life years] than the direct COVID-19 deaths.”
The government’s focus on an economic recovery has underpinned its coronavirus lockdown strategy during the summer.
Even in areas which have seen fresh restrictions imposed after spikes in infections – such as Greater Manchester, Lancashire and west Yorkshire – businesses have been allowed to remain open, with workers able to go to their workplace.
This is demonstrated by the fact people in those areas are banned from visiting a friend or family member’s garden, where the risk of coronavirus transmission is slim, but are still allowed to drink inside a pub, where the risk of the infection spreading is higher.