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UK could have zero new COVID-19 cases as early as 10th May

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UK could have zero new COVID-19 cases as early as 10th May

The UK could have zero new cases as early as 10th May but no later than the end of May.

As the UK continues its lockdown, the question for policymakers and public alike is when the virus will start to slow. The Government has recently postponed discussion about when lockdown restrictions might be eased, saying it is too early to tell when the peak of the virus could be reached.

However, new findings from Dr Roberto Pancrazi at CAGE and the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick, estimates that the virus could have peaked this week. Though the trajectory of the virus has some regional variation.

Dr. Pancrazi has applied Richards’ phenomenological model for predicting the pattern of an outbreak to the case of the UK. This model has been used to assist the trajectory of previous outbreaks including H1N1, SARS, Ebola and the COVID-19 outbreak in China.

Key findings are:

· Cases in the UK are likely to peak this week. In the next 1-3 weeks the epidemic could be halfway on its decaying path.

· The UK could see zero new reported cases as early as 10th May, but no later than the end of May.

· Scotland and Northern Ireland are on a faster track to the end of the epidemic and will see a swift drop in cases after the peak is reached.

· The UK and Wales are on a similar course.

· In regions across England there is some variation. The North West is likely to see cases drop much more quickly than the South East, for example.

· Taking Italy as a comparison (which is thought to be around two weeks ahead of the UK) the data show that restrictions put in place in March had an effect, and the epidemic is now waning.

The model takes into account official statistics of new cases and assumes that the lockdown measures will continue. When applied to data from Italy, which is thought to be around 2 weeks ahead of the UK, it shows with some certainty, that the most affected regions of the country are now in the decaying phase of the epidemic. The message is that the lockdown measures in Italy have been working, and, soon, they should start working for the UK too.

When the epidemic is on its exponential growth, new cases are proportional to the total number of case. When plotting the two variables in a graph with logarithmic scale, the relationship between the two variables appears as a upward straight line. When the line start to flatten we are at the peak of the epidemic. When the line start to decrease sharply, we are in the decaying phase. Notice how the decaying process has already started in Italy.


Roberto Pancrazi, ‘Estimating and Forecasting Covid-19 Evolution in the UK and its Regions: a Brief NoteLink opens in a new window’, CAGE Briefing Note no.20

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About the Author

Roberto Pancrazi is Associate Professor at the University of Warwick