“I think the herd’s immunity strategy is really killer,” said American scientist William Haseltine, as the UK prepares to lift most restrictions on public gatherings, businesses and nightclubs.
The UK government’s plan to get rid of it day-to-day pandemic restrictions in England, next week is reckless and has no basis in science, international experts have warned, and an argument that amounts to premeditated murder.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week that it was “highly likely” that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic would end as it advanced with Monday’s reopening, although the Delta variant was spreading out of control.
He has said the UK may reopen because two-thirds of adults are fully vaccinated, but English medical director Chris Whitty warned that infection rates were well on their way to reaching levels of “quite fear”.
International scientists, including advisers from other governments, had brutal words for Johnson.
“I’ve written that I think the herd’s immunity strategy is really killer,” said American scientist William Haseltine after an emergency discussion among experts on the UK plan.
Aiming for the herd’s immunity would mean pursuing a policy knowing it would lead to many thousands of deaths, he said. “It’s a disaster as a policy,” he added.
The UK reported on Friday its highest number of new COVID cases in more than six months.
Government data showed there were 51,870 new coronavirus cases, up from 48,553 on Thursday and the highest daily total since Jan. 15.
The number of new deaths reported as occurring in the 28 days following the positive COVID test was 49, below 63 on Thursday, bringing the total for this measure to 128,642.
The data showed that 67.5% of British adults had received two doses of vaccine, while 87.6% had received at least one dose. Most of those who are not vaccinated are younger people who have only had access to vaccines recently.
The government says it is not pursuing a “herd immunity” policy by letting the Delta variant be torn apart, but admits that daily infection rates could rise to 100,000 in the coming weeks, which would put additional pressure on hospitals.
“I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again surprisingly quickly,” Whitty said Thursday, urging the public to “take things incredibly slowly” as the restrictions ease.
Starting Monday, dubbed “Freedom Day” by some media outlets, the government will lift most restrictions at public meetings in England and allow companies such as nightclubs to reopen.
Warrants that will cover face masks and work from home will rise as Johnson promotes a new approach to personal responsibility, although he has also urged people not to “beware of the wind.”
But that’s exactly what Johnson is doing with the policy of allowing the virus to spread, “infecting people, making them sick, and killing them,” according to Professor Gabriel Scally of the University of Bristol.
The government’s stated approach to raising controls now before any winter wave of respiratory illnesses is marked by “moral vacuum and epidemiological stupidity,” he said.
The governments of Scotland and Wales are setting their own health policy and will maintain the legal requirement to wear siding in enclosed spaces such as shops and public transport. Northern Ireland looks set to do the same.