UK’s alleged ‘herd immunity’ strategy against virus could cause many deaths:expert

By Xu Keyue Source:Global Times Published: 2020/3/14 18:59:56

People wear protective face masks as they walk down Whitehall in the Spring sunshine on Wednesday in central London. The Bank of England slashed its interest rate to a record low 0.25 percent on Wednesday as part of coordinated emergency action with the UK government to combat the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. Photo:AFP

Rather than widespread diagnosis, quarantining infected individuals and their close contacts under medical observation, steps similar to those in China and Italy, the UK is reportedly adopting an appeasement strategy to allow more than a half of its population to contract COVID-19 so it can build up a “herd immunity,” which Chinese experts believe will imperil some people’s health or even life.

The country’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told BBC on Friday the government wants around 60 percent of the UK's 66.4 million population to contract the novel coronavirus to try and create “herd immunity” to prevent the virus from becoming an annual crisis, the UK media reported on Friday.

“Herd immunity” in this case, in the absence of a coronavirus vaccine, refers to a significant proportion of people in a community, particularly younger individuals resistant to serious illness, contracting the virus, recovering, and becoming immune to the infection, making it more difficult for the disease to spread among susceptible individuals, Yang Zhanqiu, deputy director of the Pathogen Biology Department at the Wuhan University, told the Global Times on Saturday.

Patrick Vallance’s speech was viewed as a defense to the UK government’s decision to delay enforcement of draconian measures, such as school closures and city lockdown. 

However, UK’s alleged appeasement policy has sparked a massive public backlash.

Jeremy Hunt, the country’s former health secretary criticized the government’s negative actions against the infection spread as “surprising and concerning,” after they decided not to cancel large gatherings for the time being.

Swarms of British netizens expressed their worries and rage on Twitter about the “herd immunity” strategy.

“Without vaccinations, the herd immunity approach is that we, as a civilized society have agreed that the weak, the old, the infirmed, as well as random healthy people die. Leaving those that have been infected and survive. How did we come to this?” a netizen tweeted on Saturday, whose sentiments resonated with the views of several other commentators.

Another netizen slammed the strategy as fundamentally about economics. “Personally, I think it's irresponsible to claim it's based on science...The judgement is ultimately political..."

A Chinese student at the University of Cambridge told the Global Times on Saturday he has decided to fly back to China next week, as he feels very insecure in the UK. 

The UK government is “gambling with the lives of the whole nation” for “political reasons,” the student lamented. "The government doesn't have the power to make such an ethical decision that will cost some people's lives," the student said. “Whoever has no right to murder a human being,” he complained. 

A British resident based in Leeds, who requested anonymity, had different views. “As a last resort, it could be the only solution. It is known that people with health condition and/or over 60 are most vulnerable, so if we build a resistance in the younger people, it could prevent the spread to older and vulnerable people,” he told the Global Times Saturday.

The strategy, by risking residents’ health and even life, is totally unadvisable and reflects irresponsibility of the government , Yang said. 

No specific data distinguished the mortality of the youth, the elderly, and the children caused by the disease, which means leaving the youth exposed to the virus could lead to many deaths as the virus is new to humans and its devastating power remains unknown, Yang noted.

Also, the strategy needs significantly strong medical resources to contain the spread of the disease, Yang said. “Will the infected patients surge and overwhelm the health system, causing mass deaths?” he questioned.

As of March 13, 9:00 am (London time) , the confirmed cases of coronavirus reached a total of 798 in the UK, with 11 deaths, data showed. 

The country has announced to move from containment to a delay policy, which comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Europe as the epicenter of the pandemic, and said about 5,000 people have died globally, according to a press release on the UK government’s official website on Thursday.

Posted in: EUROPE

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