The Conservative government intends to allow the COVID-19 coronavirus to pass through the entire British population as official policy a shocking new report from ITV states.
Writing this morning on the ITV website, journalist Robert Peston states that the government will seek to create “herd immunity” at a delayed speed to ensure that the NHS doesn’t collapse under the strain of the pandemic.
“The strategy of the British government in minimising the impact of Covid-19 is to allow the virus to pass through the entire population so that we acquire herd immunity, but at a much-delayed speed so that those who suffer the most acute symptoms are able to receive the medical support they need, and such that the health service is not overwhelmed and crushed by the sheer number of cases it has to treat at any one time.”Robert Peston, ITV
Herd immunity forms the theoretical basis for mass vaccination programs and is a form of indirect immunity when a significant number of a population have become immune, disrupting chains of infection and either stopping or slowing the spread of disease. Logically, once significant numbers have become immune, those who are not immune will have a much lower chance of becoming unwell.
However, herd immunity will only work if a significant amount of the population is vaccinated in a locality, the higher the infectiousness of the disease then the higher number of people would need to be vaccinated. This is called the threshold. As many as 95% of the population would need vaccinating. There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, with ten being currently said to be in development in the United States and human trials almost ready to go. The timeline for a vaccine is still believed to be no earlier than one year away.
However, there is a second scenario.
There are two ways an individual can become immune to an infectious disease: by becoming infected with the pathogen that causes it or by being vaccinated against it.
In the absence of a vaccine that is “oven-ready”, the government could be banking on natural immunity from those who have survived the virus, allowing COVID-19 to “pass-through” and infect the entire the population to create this herd immunity as scientists continue to work on treatment programmes.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that the mortality rate of the coronavirus is 3.4% and the current population of the United Kingdom is just over 66 million. Assuming that 95% of the British public were exposed to the disease and the mortality rate remained at 3.4% then over 2 million people would be dead. Those who will die from the coronavirus will largely be the elderly and the already sick. Herd immunity, however, would not be utilised on the national level, rather used in key areas of infection such as major cities and at the scene of significant outbreaks, significantly decreasing the numbers of those infected and killed. This itself poses an issue as Britain has yet to suspend flights to and from significantly infected areas, meaning that even if herd immunity was achieved, individuals could still spread the virus around the globe.
However, the fact remains that in the absence of an effective early preventative response, ongoing disaster plan or significantly funded NHS, the government now look set to utilise the population itself to ensure that the state remains functioning, condemning hundreds and likely thousands to death. While this plan is without a doubt one that experts will have suggested, the situation in the country should never have reached such a dire state of affairs and the government must now answer for what will transpire in the country over the next 14 days.