A University College London (UCL) model has claimed the UK will have herd immunity in a matter of days, but the health minister has rushed to pour water on the idea and encouraged the public to listen to the government instead.
The United Kingdom will have achieved herd immunity against coronavirus by Monday, academics from UCL claim in comments to Britain’s Daily Telegraph.
According to the university’s models, 73 per cent of people in the United Kingdom will have some form of immunity to coronavirus by Monday, which they say is enough to have herd immunity.
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Professor Karl Friston, of UCL, told the newspaper:
The herd immunity estimates surprised me. However, they are unremarkable when one considers that over 50 per cent of adults have been vaccinated, around 42 per cent of people have now been exposed to the virus and about 10 per cet have pre-existing immunity.
When factoring in the estimated efficacy of vaccination in terms of sterilising immunity, this – according to the model – means about 70 per cent of the population are immune.
Based upon contact rates at the beginning of the pandemic and estimated transmission risk, this is nearly at the herd immunity threshold.
But the British government — which has recently been pleading with the public to keep obeying its strict lockdown rules, even as they start to relax as part of the government’s staggered ‘return to normality’ — dismissed the claims.
Health Minister Matt Hancock told LBC radio, in comments reported by The Times, that instead of listening to pronouncements by scientists, the public should keep following the government’s lockdown roadmap announced in February and recently updated.
He said: “I was told by some scientists that we were going to have herd immunity in May and then in June and then after that… What I prefer to do is watch the data. We’ve set out the roadmap, the roadmap is really clear. It is our route back to normal. We’re on track to meet the roadmap and that is our goal.”
Hancock continued that being too optimistic and acting normally before the government says it is safe to do so could cause coronavirus cases to rise again. He said: “I think we have taken the right course in plotting our way to freedom and doing it carefully because we want it to be irreversible. We have seen what happens when this virus gets going and we are seeing it getting going right now on the continent and other parts of the world — some of the scenes are really appalling.
“We want to get out of this safely and irreversibly and that’s why we set out the roadmap.”
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The government’s roadmap sees lockdown ending in four stages. The next stage will see outdoor venues like pub gardens reopen on Monday, with indoor drinking coming a month after that. In the summer, the government has said lockdown will end altogether and this should be “irreversible“.
Yet the mood music presently coming from Westminster makes it clear the long-anticipated end of lockdown could be anything but. While Boris Johnson has insisted there is no possibility of new vaccine passports being required for citizens to go shopping or visit a pub during lockdown phases two and three, the question of what will happen in phase four has been left quite clearly open.
Indeed, after the prime minister’s vague assurances, a government document was more explicit, making clear that access to public places could be barred later this year to those who do not hold the correct covid paperwork. As Breitbart London reported, it said: “It is possible that COVID-status certification could also play a role in reducing social distancing requirements in other settings which people tend to visit more frequently, for example in hospitality settings… For now, businesses should continue to plan to reopen in a way that follows the latest COVID-Secure guidance, and certification will not be required for reopening as part of step 2 or step 3.”
Regardless, as reported last week, the software required to roll out the government’s coronavirus status certification — a covid passport — may not be ready to deploy until the Autumn anyway, ready in time for the Winter.
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