Millions of Brits have to get coronavirus so we can develop 'herd immunity'

Millions of Britons will need to become infected with coronavirus in order to help create a ‘herd immunity’, the UK’s chief scientific adviser has said.

Sir Patrick Vallance suggested around 60 percent of the population will have to contract the disease to prevent an even more aggressive outbreak of Covid-19.

He told Sky News: ‘We think this virus is likely to be one that comes year on year, becomes like a seasonal virus. Communities will become immune to it and that’s going to be an important part of controlling this longer term.

‘About 60 percent is the sort of figure you need to get herd immunity.’

Herd immunity relies on enough of a population becoming infected with a contagious disease and generating their own immunity to it, thereby making it harder to spread.

The hope is that without anyone for it to pass to, the bug will die out.

Current estimates put the death rate from Covid-19 at aroundone percent. But Sir Patrick said any attempt to guess the true figure is ‘difficult’due to the fact there may be additional cases which have yet to be detected.

He added: ‘That’s why some of the new tests that are being developed now are going to be so important, so we can really understand how this disease is spreading and we don’t have a handle on that yet.’

Sir Patrick, who is helping to oversee the government’s response to coronavirus, conceded the UK is ‘a little bit behind’ other European countries like Italy and France, where stringent measures have been taken such as banning large gatherings and placing millions under quarantine.

But he added: ‘What we don’t want to do is to get into kneejerk reactions where you have to start doing measures at the wrong pace because something’s happened. So we’re trying to keep ahead of it, we’re trying to lay out the path so people can see what the actions are that are being advised.’

Defending the current strategy, he told BBC Radio 4: ‘If yousuppress something very, very hard hard when you release those measures itbounces back – and it bounces back at the wrong time.

‘So our aim is to tray and reduce their peak – broaden thepeak – not to suppress it completely. Also, because the vast majority of peopleget a mild illness, to build up some degree of herd immunity as well.

‘So more people are immune to this disease so we reduce the transmission at the same time and protect those who are most vulnerable from it.’

UK government’s coronavirus action plan

Boris Johnson has revealed the government’s battle plan to tackle coronavirus in the UK.

The key points from the announcement, made on 3 March, are:

– If police lose ‘significant staff’ numbers to illness, they would ‘concentrate ‘on responding to serious crimes and maintaining public order’.
– In a ‘stretching scenario’, it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks.
– Everyone will face increased pressures at work, as well as potentially their own illness and caring responsibilities. Supporting staff welfare ‘will be critical’ for businesses.

– The UK has stockpiles of medicines for the NHS, plus protective clothing and equipment for medical staff.
– The public can help delay the spread of the virus by washing hands with soap regularly, not spreading misinformation and relying on trusted sources. They should also ensure family vaccines are up to date and check on family, friends and neighbours. They should also check Foreign Office advice before travelling abroad and be understanding of the pressures the health service is under.
– The public will be asked to accept that ‘the advice for managing Covid-19 for most people will be self-isolation at home and simple over the counter medicines’.
– If coronavirus becomes established, there will be a focus on essential services and helping those ‘most at risk to access the right treatment’.
– During the mitigation phase, when the virus is much more widespread, ‘pressures on services and wider society may become significant and clearly noticeable’.

– The Ministry of Defence will provide support as needed, including to essential services.
– There will be increased Government communication with Parliament, the public and the media if the virus becomes more widespread.
– All Government departments to have a lead person for coronavirus.

– If the virus takes hold, social distancing strategies could include school closures, encouraging greater home working, reducing the number of large scale gatherings and closing other educational settings.
– It is possible that an outbreak or pandemic of Covid-19 could come in multiple waves.
– Non-urgent operations and other procedures could be cancelled, and hospital discharges monitored to free-up beds, with appropriate care in people’s homes.
– Hospital worker shifts could be altered and leavers or retirees called ‘back to duty’.
– Measures exist to help businesses with short-term cash flow problems.
– There is a distribution strategy for sending out key medicines and equipment to NHS and social care.
– This strain of coronavirus is new and people have a lack of immunity to it, meaning ‘Covid-19 has the potential to spread extensively’.
– Everyone is susceptible to catching the disease and thus it is ‘more likely than not that the UK will be significantly affected’.

– There could be an ‘increase in deaths arising from the outbreak, particularly among vulnerable and elderly groups’.
– While most people will suffer mild to moderate symptoms, similar to seasonal flu, some will need hospital care due to pneumonia developing.
– Young children can become infected and ‘suffer severe illness’, but overall the illness is less common in the under-20s.

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