16 March 2020 - Coronavirus: Boris Johnson’s collective immunity
The UK backs away from “herd immunity” coronavirus proposal amid blowback
Anya van Wagtendonk (Vox, 15/03/2020)
The United Kingdom is previewing a new self-isolation plan for all people over 70 to address the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, following backlash over a proposal to promote immunity by allowing up to 60 percent of its population to become infected.
The UK government’s chief science adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said on BBC Radio 4 that one of “the key things we need to do” is to “build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission.”
But Matt Hancock, the UK secretary of state for health and social care, stressed that achieving herd immunity to Covid-19 is not a stated policy. Instead, he said that “in the coming weeks,” people over the age of 70 will be told to self-isolate. This stands in contrast with World Health Organization guidelines, which recommend that everyone, regardless of age, practice social distancing.
What is herd immunity and will it stop coronavirus in the UK?
The UK's Chief Scientific Adviser has said a degree of herd immunity will help the UK population as Covid-19 spreads.
Sir Patrick Vallance acknowledged there are fears that clamping down too hard on the spread of the virus through tight social distancing measures could see it return in the future.
He said the aim is to "reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission".
Herd immunity: will the UK's coronavirus strategy work?
Sarah Boseley (The Guardian, 13/03/2020)
Herd immunity is a phrase normally used when large numbers of children have been vaccinated against a disease like measles, reducing the chances that others will get it. As a tactic in fighting a pandemic for which there is no vaccine, it is novel – and some say alarming.
It relies on people getting the disease – in this case Covid-19 – and becoming immune as a result. Generally it is thought that those who recover will be immune, at least for now, so they won’t get it twice.
But allowing the population to build up immunity in this way – rather than through widespread testing, tracking down the contacts of every case and isolating them, as many other countries in Asia and Europe have chosen to do – could increase the risk to the most vulnerable: older people with underlying health problems.
Coronavirus: Hundreds of scientists warn UK government’s response to outbreak ‘risking lives’
Peter Sutbley (The Independent, 15/03/2020)
Hundreds of scientists have warned the British government that their response to the coronavirus epidemic is “risking many more lives than necessary”.
In an open letter, more than 295 academics living and working in the UK backed calls for immediate measures to restrict the spread of Covid-19.They criticised the UK’s strategy of delaying restrictions in a bid to achieve ”herd immunity”, arguing that it would put the NHS under even more stress.
“By putting in place social distancing measures now, the growth can be slowed down dramatically, and thousands of lives can be spared,” the letter adds.