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The NAFD commissions scenario modelling to help funeral directors plan ahead

The NAFD has commissioned the consultancy Europe Economics to produce scenario models showing what the future path of the UK mortality rate might look like to Sept 2020, especially as lockdown is lifted.

The results suggest that, even if the government is successful in controlling the spread of Coronavirus at a national level, post-lockdown, some regions of the UK could be in for a significant second peak of deaths, from all causes, and that second peak could be higher if lock down is lifted less successfully.

With funeral directors under significant and sustained pressure, the NAFD has been pressing Government on a weekly basis for the modelling data upon which it is basing its strategy for COVID-19 to support future planning. With no information being provided, the research was therefore commissioned to provide funeral directors with some idea of what could come next, to allow them to plan effectively under various scenarios following a lifting of lockdown.

The scenarios model potential deaths from all causes, not just COVID-19 and are based on bringing together published, respected data, including:

  • Two scientific views of the Infection Fatality Rate, one promoted by Oxford University, the Swedish government and Stanford University and the other promoted by Imperial College London and others.
  • Scientific analysis of the reproduction rate in different regions of the UK during the lockdown.
  • ONS (and equivalent) weekly deaths data from the four nations of the UK.
  • A range of other known and published information about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commenting on the findings, Andrew Lilico (leader of the Europe Economics team) said:

“The current situation includes great uncertainty regarding both how things are now (e.g. the infection fatality rate of COVID-19 and how many people have already been infected) and how things might evolve in the future (especially regarding the reproduction rate post-lockdown and what will happen to non-COVID deaths).

“Although a number of overall figures for expected final fatalities from COVID-19 are discussed in the press, that is of limited value to funeral directors who need to understand how many deaths there might be in their regions at particular dates, and about deaths from causes other than COVID-19. We hope that the models we have produced, though they cover a range of possibilities reflecting current uncertainties, will assist funeral directors in making their business decisions and in providing the best service to bereaved people over the next few months.”

Jon Levett, Chief Executive of the NAFD, added:

“What is striking about the modelling is that, based upon the most cautious model of how many Britons have already become infected, different parts of the UK and different regions within England would see significant second peaks with even a successful lifting of the lockdown – most notably Scotland*, Wales, and the North East & Yorkshire.

“If lockdown is lifted less successfully, the impact is even more striking, with the potential for those regions to see a second peak that is actually higher than the first. The North West, South West would also be significantly affected by a less than successful lifting of lockdown, while London, the East of England, Midlands and Northern Ireland are predicted to have a far lower impact.

“This suggests that, until such time as we know which of the two models is prevailing, funeral directors in many parts of the UK need to prepare themselves for a significant potential second peak in the death rate – should the government’s easing of lock down measures not go as well as they are hoping. It is a further indication of just how volatile the situation remains and the importance of working together to get this right as a nation, be that as individuals, as organisations or as governments.”

The intention is to update these models regularly, as new inputs are available – such as the details of how lock down will be lifted in different parts of the UK, the experience of lifting lock down in other countries, progress towards effective therapeutic treatments etc.

It should be noted that the data provides only an approximate indication of the range within which deaths in each area of the UK lie, under a set of plausible scenarios reflecting the very considerable scientific and policy uncertainty at this time. The models use epidemiological and other scientific assumptions drawn from the current literature, but do not endorse any specific conclusions given the very considerable scientific debate there is about many aspects of these matters at present.

Andrew Lilico, who has led the Europe Economics team for this project, is one of Europe’s top economists and the holder of a PhD in Game theory – the study of mathematical models of strategic interaction among rational decision-makers. He is a regular commentator on BBC television and radio, and on Sky, Bloomberg and CNBC Europe. His firm, Europe Economics, is also providing the NAFD with analysis of the economic impact of COVID-19 on the funeral profession in the short and long term.

Click here to view the models.

*Scotland mortality data is gathered slightly differently and therefore there is a greater level of uncertainty around the precise accuracy of these findings – although they do indicate risk significant enough to suggest funeral directors should plan for its likelihood.
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