London — Four months after Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted virtually all England’s coronavirus restrictions and began gambling, his country settled in a disturbing new normal.
But these harsh numbers have made Britain “almost herd immunity,” said one of the government’s most influential scientific advisers this week. Currently, the infection is spreading throughout the European continent.
Comments made in an interview with London’s Imperial College epidemiologist Neil Ferguson revived discussions about Britain’s status as an anomaly in Covid, although predictions about a pandemic often shook government policy. Probability is high. Widely distributed viruses and steady deaths at the cost of returning to economic normality.
They also have national nerves where herd immunity has been a false concept since it was raised by the UK’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance in March 2020 when the virus first affected the UK. You may touch. His tolerance for the benefits of herd immunity caused such a backlash, and since then the government has rejected the proposal to adopt such a strategy.
Professor Ferguson, who spoke with international reporters on Tuesday, said he hoped Britain would largely avoid the surge in incidents seen on the continent in recent weeks. He said this was partly due to the fact that so many British people have been infected since the blockade was lifted in July, boosting the immunity of the entire population.
“We may see a slowdown in growth for weeks, but in a sense it’s mostly herd immunity,” he said, saying the UK is more than a country with re-immunity like Austria, the Netherlands and Germany. He added that he was in a slightly better position. Soaring infection rate.
Other public health experts are skeptical of Professor Ferguson’s theory. In particular, the high prevalence in the UK suggests that there are still many people with little or no immunity. They also say they do not take into account other factors such as new mutants or diminished protection from vaccines.
“It’s a bold statement,” said Devis Ridal, head of the University of Edinburgh’s Global Public Health Program. “I don’t think modelers have enough data to assess whether we have reached the stage of mythical herd immunity. With Covid, everyone survived and died with Covid. Or when you get vaccinated. “
According to the Mayo Clinic, herd immunity “occurs when the majority of the community is immune to the disease, making it less likely that the disease will spread from person to person. As a result, not only those who are immune. , The entire community will be protected. “
Given the rapid spread of delta variants, the UK could reach that threshold after winter, according to Professor Sridal. However, it depends on the resilience of both vaccines and innate immunity. Meanwhile, she said she was worried about the hospital’s capacity from December to February, when cold weather is likely to contribute to both Covid-19 and seasonal influenza infections.
Despite repeated denials of the government’s practice of herd immunity strategies, Johnson in particular lifted all restrictions in the UK on July 19 and told the London press “Free Day”. After making the declaration, the suspicion was prolonged. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland left some restrictions at the time.
Health officials argued that it would be better to confirm that the infection could surge during the summer than in the winter when the virus is prone to spread and in the winter when oversized hospitals are under maximum pressure.
Professor Ferguson stands out among the scientists who became familiar with him during the pandemic. In March 2020, his modeling team warned that the uncontrollable epidemic of the disease could kill 510,000 people in the United Kingdom and up to 2.2 million in the United States. (The United Kingdom has recorded 144,137 deaths and the United States has recorded 774,580 deaths.)
Professor Ferguson, dubbed the “Professor of Blockage” by the British tabloid, temporarily resigned as a government adviser in May 2020 after admitting that he had broken the blockade rules by entertaining women at home. But his view remains important, and he is once again a member of the Government’s Influential Emergency Science Advisory Group (SAGE).
This time, Professor Ferguson has a more encouraging message. The rise in the UK’s immunity rate means that even if the number of cases increases somewhat, there is no need for further restrictions at this time.
Professor Ferguson said the decision to abolish regulation in the UK was motivated by politicians’ determination to return to normal rather than build immunity by allowing the virus to spread throughout the population. ..
But to some extent, it’s a distinction that makes no difference. The number of cases reported in the UK since July is 5 million, more than half of the total reported since the start of the pandemic. According to Professor Ferguson, this represents 7.5% of the population, and adding asymptomatic people could probably double that number.
He said this rapid cycle of Covid boosted the immunity of vaccinated people as well as unvaccinated adolescents and teenagers, effectively “replenishing” their immunity. .. Combined with the effective deployment of UK vaccines and booster shots (about 80% of the population receives at least two doses), high levels of immunity make the number of cases relatively stable, even at high levels. I am.
Of course, the British approach is “not free,” he added. The country’s daily death toll continues to exceed that of its neighbors.
“Herd immunity is not all-or-nothing,” said Professor Ferguson. “This limits the infection, and in the UK, the infection is basically flat if there is no actual limit that indicates that the limit of immunity to stop the infection is almost reached.”
But for skeptics, there are still too many wildcards to conclude that a pandemic is losing momentum in the UK.
“We don’t really understand Covid and its many new variants,” said Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, who has led the Zoe Covid Study to track the symptoms of Covid-19. ..
According to Professor Specter, previous predictions about herd immunity have proven to be wrong, and assumptions about their preconditions continue to be revised. Scientists said that in 2020, if about 60% of the population has immunity, herd immunity can be achieved. Recently, scientists have revised their estimates to over 85%. And some argue that it may never be reached, at least in the United States.
The epidemiological model also does not take into account weakened immunity. “Vaccines work partially,” said Professor Specter. “But they also wear to different degrees of different people. They have weakened immunity, so they probably won’t win altogether.”
These are more than academic discussions. The debate on herd immunity influences “general government strategies for drawing rosy pictures,” he said. “I’ve heard government ministers say that 40,000 cases a day are success stories.”
Behind the debate over herd immunity is a more basic question of whether it is right for the government to open up the UK economy and society last summer, even though the virus is still widespread in the population. I have a question.
“We behave like there are so many in Europe …