The knock-on effects of a flu pandemic could be worse for the economy than originally thought, according to a new study.

Researchers have used computer modelling to determine that policies introduced in response to a pandemic could cost the UK economy billions.

In the worst case scenario, measures such as absenteeism from schools and workplaces to avoid infection could result in a £47.5bn hit to GDP.

The authors, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the London School of Economics, wrote: “The disease itself is not necessarily the greatest concern from a macroeconomic perspective.

“This raises a particular problem for governments which must steer a difficult path between advice to ‘carry on as usual’ and ‘social distancing’ measures which may slow down the rate at which an epidemic grows.”

The report by Professor Richard Smith, Dr Marcus Keogh-Brown and Professor Tony Barnett has been published in Social Science & Medicine.