SHIELDING just five per cent of Brits could slash coronavirus deaths by up to three-quarter, research suggests.
Oxford University scientists have developed a new Covid risk tool using data on more than eight million patients.
It helps medics identify those with the highest chance of being admitted to hospital and dying from the bug.
Key factors include age, ethnicity, obesity, being poor and a range of underlying health conditions.
Researchers found those in the top five per cent for predicted death risk accounted for 76 per cent of fatalities during the first wave.
And those in the highest 20 per cent made up 94 per cent of Covid mortality, according to the BMJ paper.
The Oxford team said their model can be used to support decisions around shielding and vaccine prioritisation.
Lead researcher Professor Julia Hippisley-Cox said: “This model will help inform clinical advice so that people can take proportionate precautions to protect themselves from Covid.”
Experts on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) have rejected the idea of “segmenting” higher-risk older Brits and asking them to isolate at home.
They said it was unworkable, with seven in ten household containing someone over the age of 45.
And in some ethnic minority communities, 67 per cent of homes have a person over-75 living with them.
Health bosses have decided millions of high-risk Brits will not need to shield this winter – thanks to social distancing and widespread use of masks.
Instead, the 2.2 million "clinically extremely vulnerable" people in England have been told to be careful and use "common sense" when meeting others.
Mark Woolhouse, Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Edinburgh University, said the “landmark” study suggests targeted shielding could save lives.
Commenting on the BMJ paper, he said: “A very striking result from the validation exercise: the five per cent of people predicted to be at greatest risk accounted for 75 per cent of the deaths.
“This implies that we can now identify in advance a small proportion of people at greatly increased risk – over 50 times that of the remaining 95 per cent.
“This result provides support for the concept of targeted shielding.
“If ways could be found to protect this five per cent – such as regular testing of their closest contacts – then this could make a substantial difference to the public health burden of Covid.”
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