TOWNS like Ludlow and Tenbury with a large number of older people would have been changed forever within the space of a few weeks had the Government not changed its approach to managing the coronavirus Covid-19 crisis.

This is the stark message from a report produced by Imperial College in London that prepared a model of the likely outcome of the pandemic.

It was prepared by a team of experts based upon information from China and other parts of the world as well as knowledge of previous epidemics around the world and people’s behaviour.

According to the model if nothing had been done and people had just been allowed to go on living their lives as normal there would have been 500,000 deaths in the country.

With no one left to kill the virus would have petered out in late summer but at a terrible price especially to the elderly and vulnerable who are much more likely to fall victim to an illness that for many will be mild and for some without symptoms.

That means a year’s worth a death in just a few weeks in April and May. It would have left the NHS swamped not to mention cemeteries and crematorium.

Of course, this was never the Government’s strategy. It had been following an approach to mitigate through some limited controls.

But when Imperial College forecast that even this would mean 250,000 deaths, in just a few short weeks, swamping the NHS, the Government changed to a policy of suppression.

Suppression will only work with a very strict combination of restrictions as we are seeing now.

It gives a chance that the number of cases will be within the capacity of the NHS to cope although it will be a close run thing in the coming weeks.

Suppressing the virus will dramatically reduce the number of deaths in the short term although in truth many of the people who die with Covid-19 would probably have died anyway over the next couple of years.

But it will mean an extended period during which restrictions will periodically be relaxed before being tightened up again in line with the rise and fall of cases. This is a cycle that is may have to continue until a viable vaccine is found.

It is a hard prospect for people especially in towns like Ludlow and Tenbury where older people and those at high risk face possibly being asked to self-isolate for periods of many months or perhaps a year or more.

What is desperately needed is a broad programme of testing across the population to find out how many people have had the disease and enable those who have to get back to work and help the vulnerable instead of vegetating at home.

In time things will get back to normal but it will be a ‘new normal’ and who knows what it will look like.

Hopefully one in which the NHS and its amazing staff are not taken for granted again.