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A study by the Imperial College London, published in the journal Nature, has suggested that across 11 countries in Europe, the lockdown orders and school closures that were put in place in response to the coronavirus pandemic may have averted about 3.1 million deaths through early May.

The study suggests that across those European countries, between 12 and 15 million people have been infected with the coronavirus through May 4, representing between 3.2 per cent and 4 per cent of the population.

The study involved back-calculating coronavirus infections from observed deaths, and that death data was used to model changes in the course of COVID-19 from the start of the pandemic to May 4, when lockdowns started to be lifted.

The countries included in the data were: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The study had some limitations, including that deaths attributable to COVID-19 early on in the pandemic could have been missed in the data, and there is variation in the reporting of deaths by country.

“Using a model based on data from the number of deaths in 11 European countries, it is clear to us that non-pharmaceutical interventions – such as lockdown and school closures – have saved about 3.1 million lives in these countries,” Seth Flaxman, a senior lecturer in the Department of Mathematics at Imperial College London who worked on the study, said in a press release

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