There is rising evidence that some coronavirus survivors can suffer lasting damage to the lungs and heart, a fact that has implications for British government plans to instil “herd immunity” in the population by exposing large swathes of the country to the virus.
Following a study by The Hong Kong Hospital Authority on discharged survivors of the virus, the hospital concluded that an average of 2 to 3 survivors are now suffering significant lung damage, losing between 20% and 30% of lung capacity.
“They gasp if they walk a bit more quickly… Some patients might have around a drop of 20 to 30% in lung function”Owen Tsang Tak-yin, the medical director of the authority’s Infectious Disease Centre
A separate study analyzed data from 53 consecutive laboratory-confirmed and hospitalized patients and concluded that cardiac complications are common in COVID-19 patients.
While Owen Tsang Tak-yin notes that lung capacity could be improved in the future through rehabilitation, this factor not only would have profound effects for the quality of life of victims but for the workforce, with potentially hundreds of thousands unable to return to their jobs and subsequently provide for the essential needs of themselves and their families.
The lasting damage to patients has implications for the British government’s plan to let the virus run through the population, a plan that ITV’s Robert Peston has claimed is the brainchild of Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings and Matt Hancock.
“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
Logically, once significant numbers have become immune to a disease or virus, those who are not immune will have a much lower chance of catching the contagion. However, herd immunity rests on significant amounts of the population being vaccinated against the contagion in question. With no vaccine available, enacting a policy of herd immunity is a death sentence for thousands of elderly and vulnerable patients. With 10,000 believed to be infected across the UK and each victim on average believed to infect two others, British inaction in not suspending flights, allowing free movement, allowing mass gatherings and failing to create quarantine zones is spreading the virus far and wide by design.
The World Health Organisation has criticised the British government’s response and reported plans.
“The WHO policy – practised by China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong – is to keep things damped down until drugs and a vaccine are available. Vaccines are a safer way to develop herd immunity, without the risks associated with the disease itself. Is it wise or ethical to adopt a policy that threatens immediate casualties on the basis of uncertain future benefit?”Anthony Costello, former director of maternal and child health at the WHO