Two government advisors claim a government cost-benefit analysis carried out during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic will have set acceptable deaths before a lockdown begins at 50,000. One says that amount to a ratio of 1,000 per week.
This is despite denials by No. 10. The threshold would mean that future lockdowns will only come into force if that level of deaths is met. As might be expected, the suggestion has angered people.
According to the i newspaper, an anonymous source close to the government’s coronavirus response said:
The Prime Minister is minded to implement another lockdown or new restrictions only if the figure of annual deaths looks like it’s going to go above 50,000. That means deaths from Covid of 137 a day, or just under 1,000 a week.
The source added:
However, it won’t be an immediate reaction. A sustained rate of death of around a 1,000 a week for two or three weeks will, though, lead to discussion on restrictions being reimposed. Unfortunately, prime ministers have to weigh up the cost of saving lives to the impact on the economy. No one wants to talk about that’s how it works.
Twitter users were outraged at the suggestion 50,000 people might be seen as an acceptable limit.
One said he could find the words, but he’d get banned:
— dave lawrence (@dave43law) August 27, 2021
Another said we’d look ridiculous to other countries:
"Boris Johnson ‘privately accepts’ up to 50k annual Covid deaths as an acceptable level"!!
& how many more millions will develop long covid, & how many more 1000s will die from delayed treatment? This is not going to work. Other countries think we are mad. https://t.co/vR3OZ9f0ae
— SunderlandLollipops 🐝💙 (@SunderlandLolly) August 27, 2021
And this person made their feelings clear:
Boris Johnson 'privately accepts' up to 50,000 annual Covid deaths as acceptable, advisers say https://t.co/WPuPQve55G
— Steven Jones 🌹 (@stevenj29) August 27, 2021
The cost of living
But it might be even worse than suspected. The report suggests that a financial threshold has also been set. The i reported that:
The Government’s cost-benefit analysis on Covid measures is believed to set not only the acceptable level of cost to save the life of a Covid patient at up to £30,000, but also how much each life lost costs the UK economy.
And a second senior figure close to the government’s coronavirus response also weighed in. Professor Richard Medley is a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and was involved in modelling coronavirus infections.
He told i:
Decisions about how much to intervene to improve public health are always difficult for governments. Measures such as vaccinating children against meningitis or imposing speed limits on roads reduce death and disease, but also cost money and limit freedoms.
He added that:
Finding the balance is one of the hardest decisions for governments, but is essentially what we vote politicians to do. In normal times, it is possible to use calculations of, say, cost per life saved, to provide some framework to guide decisions. In the UK, if an intervention costs less than £30,000 per year of life saved, then it is usually accepted in terms of healthcare.
A Downing Street spokesperson said “there is no set number of acceptable deaths from Covid”. This is a point that a lot of members of the public seem to agree on. Perhaps someone needs to tell Boris Johnson.
Featured Image via Wikimedia Commons/No 10 Downing Street
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