Professor Robert Dingwall

Professor Robert Dingwall
Boris Johnson's hardline coronavirus lockdown message has 'effectively terrorised' the UK population into believing they will die if they catch coronavirus, one of the government's experts has said.

Professor Robert Dingwall suggested Britain had 'completely lost sight' of the true nature of the disease because 'mostly it isn't' killing people.

His comments illustrate the potential problems facing the Prime Minister as he prepares to set out his lockdown exit plan in an address to the nation on Sunday night.

Polling published yesterday showed almost two thirds of the population are worried about the effects of lifting the draconian curbs too early.

Some experts are concerned that so-called 'coronaphobia' could prove a major barrier to getting the nation back up and running.

Professor Robert Dingwall said the government's coronavirus message had 'effectively terrorised the population into believing that this is a disease that is going to kill you'

Prof Dingwall from Nottingham University sits on the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag), which feeds into the government's Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).

He told The Telegraph: 'We have this very strong message which has effectively terrorised the population into believing that this is a disease that is going to kill you. And mostly it isn't.

'Eighty per cent of the people who get this infection will never need to go near a hospital. The ones who do go to hospital because they are quite seriously ill most of them will come out alive - even those who go into intensive care.'

Prof Dingwall said the UK had 'completely lost sight of that' because of an 'obsession' with the death toll and international comparisons.

He added: 'All of that helps to create this climate of fear and I am not surprised in a sense that the Government might take a rather cautious approach to try to unlock the lockdown - simply because they would really be nervous that if they pushed it too quickly it would be like giving a party and nobody came.'

An exclusive poll for MailOnline yesterday suggested the public fears the virus far more than immediate economic meltdown.

It revealed 62 per cent are more worried about the effects of the draconian curbs ending too early, while 38 per cent said their main concern is the havoc they are wreaking on the economy now.

Around seven in 10 believe bus and train drivers, teachers, and medical staff should have the right to refuse to go back to work, even if the government says it is safe.

Some 60 per cent said the state should keep covering a proportion of people's wages even if in theory they should be able to resume their jobs.

More than three quarters of people said they would be behind bus drivers who made the 'personal decision' to stay off because of safety fears, with just 16 per cent saying they would not support them

Nearly half say they could even support strike action if people are ordered to get back to work.

Prof Dingwall also questioned the wisdom of the Government's two metre social distancing rule as he said he had been told by a public health expert it had been chosen because 'we did not think the British population would understand what one metre was'.

'Personally I think we could quite safely go to 1.5 metres which seems to be an internationally acceptable standard, inside and outside,' he said.