SOCIAL distancing measures have helped Spain reach its peak mortality rate for COVID-19 on April 1 last week, a leading US researcher has said.

Dr. Christopher Murray – whose coronavirus prediction models are used in press briefings at the White House – said that badly-hit European countries now have the ‘worst behind them’ as death rates are declining.

The director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, added that trajectories could change if countries relax precautions.

“It is unequivocally evident that social distancing can, when well implemented and maintained, control the epidemic, leading to declining death rates,” he said.

A report published today by the IHME said that Italy reached its peak mortality rate on March 27, followed by Spain on April 1 and France on April 3.

The report added that Spain will see 19,209 deaths from the novel coronavirus – the country has registered 13,798 at the time of publication.

The United Kingdom, which introduced lockdown rules nine days after Spain, is predicted to see 66,314 deaths.

The US, meanwhile, is predicted to see 81,766 deaths – compared with 151,680 across all of Europe.

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Dr. Murray said in a statement that predictions are based on analysis of what researchers are calling the virus’ ‘first wave’.

“To decrease the risk of a second wave in places where the first wave is controlled by robust social distancing, governments would need to consider mass testing, contact tracing, and quarantines for those infected until a vaccination is available, mass produced, and distributed widely,” Murray added. 

The report added that almost all regions of Spain are ‘at or past the peak’. It said excess demand for ICU beds is particularly high in Spain compared to other European countries.

Mortalities are predicted up using models that last until August.

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