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Thu 2 July 2020
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Otto English explores why Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings’ supposed strategy of tackling the Coronavirus through the UK population developing ‘herd immunity’ is so dangerous to us all.

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I know nothing whatsoever about viruses and my general understanding of science falls well below that of my 12-year-old daughter. I failed biology at school and it wasn’t just a routine fail, it was a deep and humiliating fail; the kind of fail that haunts a man. There is no way I should be expounding my opinions about the Coronavirus, the transmission of it, or how we should halt it. 

But none of this seems to have stopped Boris Johnson, Dominic Cummings or Nigel Farage.

It was Farage, of course, who reacted to an article by the World Health Organisation about smoking in 2017 by tweeting that the WHO “is just another club of ‘clever people’ who want to bully and tell us what to do. Ignore”.

Now Farage, who by his own admission flunked his ‘A’ levels, and who – to the best of my knowledge – has no prior interest or expertise in immunisation, viruses or biology, is popping up across the media as an expert on COVID-19. That in itself is dangerous.

This is not the time for unemployed MEPs to fill their empty days on the This Morning sofa. It is a time for proper experts. The ill-informed but opinionated Farage is reaching a huge audience and seems to merely be peddling the second hand gobbledygook of the similarly ill-informed US President, Donald Trump, in yet another attempt to break the US through flattery.

And he’s not the only one at it.

“Perhaps we could take it on the chin,” Prime Minister Johnson explained on This Morning earlier this week. That now seems to be the plan. According to the political editor of ITV News, Robert Peston, former journalist Johnson and his unelected advisor Dominic Cummings have decided that the best way to tackle the Coronavirus is through ‘herd immunity’.

Herd immunity, according to the Prime Minister, is a process by which the disease is allowed to move through the population and naturally die out. In theory, it’s akin to the days when measles outbreaks naturally immunised children against the disease. On the face of it, this seems like a magic bullet; the COVID-19 equivalent of “Get Brexit Done” – slam the virus in the population, let it do its business, trot out a few jaunty catchphrases and move on with all that bridge-building bollocks.

But does it actually work?  

Well, opinions are sharply divided. According to some sources, such as this by Scram News, herd immunity only works if a large percentage of the population are already vaccinated against the virus and, of course, there is as yet no vaccination for the Coronavirus. According to an expert, quoted in the article, tackling measles requires “between 93% and 95% of the population” to be vaccinated to stop its spread.

In short, ‘herd immunity’ is not what the Prime Minister has claimed it is; it is about protecting those who cannot be vaccinated for whatever reason by vaccinating the majority. Allowing the virus to flow through the population would mean millions of people getting infected and presumably a lot of people dying. That might well be inevitable according to some scientists. While, eventually, the population would develop immunity to it, the strain on the NHS and the loss of people susceptible to the illness will grow.   

But, as I say, I’m no expert on viruses or COVID-19. My expertise, for what it is worth, is in watching the likes of Johnson and Cummings. And here, what they are seemingly proposing, is not a solution so much as a catchy buzz-phrase to look like they are tackling this immense crisis. In essence, it is “Get Covid Done”.

It would be irresponsible for someone as poorly informed as me to speculate as to what might happen next, so here is a plea. We at Byline Times would love to hear from experts – you know, people who really know what they are talking about – to inform us, correct us and explain whether this Government strategy really makes sense. 

If you are one – please get in touch by emailing: news@bylinetimes.com


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