Coronavirus: UK wants at least 60% of people infected to gain herd immunity

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5 Min Read

The response of countries to coronavirus can be divided into three categories. The first are countries that take the situation seriously and introduce drastic measures.

The second, shrinking group, is the countries that do not take the threat seriously and do nothing.

A separate category is the United Kingdom, which considers coronavirus a great danger, but believes it is far too early for mass quarnatines and other restrictive measures. On the contrary, the country is hoping that as many people as possible are infected and in the process, hopes to outwit the disease.

The British government argues that mass quarantine and other restrictive measures do not work. They can help bring the disease under control, but cannot be maintained indefinitely, and once the restrictions are lifted, the epidemic will start again.

The Brits also expect the coronavirus to retreat in the summer months but return in full force in the fall.

The only way to defeat the coronavirus forever is, according to Britain, to build herd immunity. The British government assumes that once immunity is sufficiently high in society, the disease cannot spread easily, thus protecting the most vulnerable groups of people.

Given the absence of a vaccine, the only way to obtain immunity is to get infected and then recover. The British government claims that for herd immunity to be effective, 60 percent of the population must be infected.

Therefore, the British decided not to close large parts of the country. Football matches and other significant events are only prohibited from this week. Schools and pubs remain open.

At the same time, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people with symptoms should stay home and people over 70 should avoid cruises.

The British have a good explanation. For example, closure of schools could shut down doctors and other front-line workers because they would have to stay at home to look after children or endanger seniors who would have to look after their grandchildren.

According to the government, it is crucial to spread the number of patients over time as much as possible. The greatest danger is the health system collapsing under the influx of infected, as happened in Lombardy.

Although this plan is hazardous, experts agree that it could work. But the British health system does not the best reputation and might not be able to cope with the influx of patients. The critics also blame the plan for relying on many hypothetical considerations and, most importantly, for leading to unnecessary deaths.

In response to the criticism, yesterday, Boris Johnson extended the recommended quarantine period for people with symptoms of the COVID-19 illness from seven days to 14.

“Now is the time for everyone to stop non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel,“ the British prime minister said according to CNN.

For now, Britain appears to be taking a different path than the rest of the world with the belief it can defeat the virus. The coming days and weeks will show whether the government is right or will have to adopt some of the unpleasant but proven measures.

Title image: Prime Minister Boris Johnson gives a press conference with England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty, left, and Chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance, right, about the ongoing situation with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic at 10 Downing Street in London, Monday March 16, 2020. According to the World Health Organization, the vast majority of people recover from the new COVID-19 coronavirus in about two to six weeks depending on the severity of the illness. (Richard Pohle/Pool via AP)

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