Britain’s Covid lockdown architect once warned that up to 200million people could die worldwide during a bird flu pandemic.
Professor Neil Ferguson, tasked with forecasting coronavirus-style scenarios in case the pathogen mutates to spread among humans easier, made the dire prediction in 2005 when fears of an avian influenza crisis were similarly high.
It comes as two cases of the deadly H5N1 strain have been confirmed in Cambodia, following the death of an 11-year-old girl due to the virus. Her father is also infected, while a dozen more people are being tested.
The case has sparked concerns that the virus could be spreading between humans.
The Government has now stepped up its preparation for a UK outbreak, with officials modelling how bird flu may take off among people and probing whether Covid-style lateral flow tests could detect the virus.
Official contingency plans, drawn up 18 years ago, warned of a death toll of up to 710,000 in the UK alone due to flu.
It was published during the heightened concerns about bird flu.
The 710,000 figure is based on half of the population becoming infected, with a fatality rate of around 2.5 per cent.
That doomsday death toll is three times higher than that of Covid pandemic, which stands at around 220,000 since March 2020.
The Avian Influenza Technical Group, part of the UK Health Security Agency, is now working on fresh modelling scenarios on how bird flu could take off in Britain.
Read More: Professor Lockdown once warned 200MILLION could die in bird flu crisis