More than 250,000 people will die in Britain from coronavirus unless “draconian” measures are introduced, warn scientists.
Government advisers have warned that “social distancing” will not prevent an NHS being “overwhelmed many times over”.
The Imperial College Covid-19 team says the only “viable strategy” is to distance the entire population – as was done in China, the seat of the outbreak.
The Imperial College report warned that even then health systems would be overrun.
It said: “In the most effective mitigation strategy examined, which leads to a single, relatively short epidemic (case isolation, household quarantine and social distancing of the elderly), the surge limits for both general ward and ICU (intensive care unit) beds would be exceeded by at least eight-fold under the more optimistic scenario for critical care requirements that we examined.
“In addition, even if all patients were able to be treated, we predict there would still be in the order of 250,000 deaths in GB, and 1.1-1.2 million in the US.”
The report said the UK should move to a policy of total “suppression” involving the social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members.
It added: “The social and economic effects of the measures which are needed to achieve this policy goal will be profound.
“No public health intervention with such disruptive effects on society has been previously attempted for such a long duration of time. How populations and societies will respond remains unclear.”