Matt Hancock attacks 'flawed goal' of coronavirus herd immunity

13 October 2020, 16:08 | Updated: 13 October 2020, 16:20

By Megan White

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has attacked the "flawed goal" of herd immunity against coronavirus, adding that "many infectious diseases never reach herd immunity."

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Hancock said that we should have no confidence of ever reaching herd immunity, even if everyone was to catch the virus.

He said Covid-19 cases have quadrupled in the last three weeks and the virus remains a "formidable" threat.

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The Health Secretary said: "Some have set out this more relaxed approach, including in the so-called Great Barrington Declaration, and I want to take this argument head on because on the substance, the Great Barrington Declaration is underpinned by two central claims and both are emphatically false.

"First, it says that if enough people get Covid, we will reach herd immunity. This is not true. Many infectious diseases never reach herd immunity, like measles and malaria and Aids and flu, and with increasing evidence of reinfection, we should have no confidence that we would ever reach herd immunity to Covid even if everyone caught it.

"Herd immunity is a flawed goal without a vaccine, even if we could get to it, which we can't. The second central claim is that we can segregate the old and the vulnerable on our way to herd immunity. This is simply not possible."

Mr Hancock also dismissed suggestions that elderly and vulnerable people should be segregated while other parts of society are opened up.

The Health Secretary said: "We are not the kind of country that abandons our vulnerable or just locks them up.

"If we let this virus continue unchecked, the loss of life would be simply too great to contemplate.

"And we know it would put our NHS at risk, as my honourable friends have just said.

"We know this both because of what happened in March and because of what is happening right now."

Mr Hancock also warned that there will be many more deaths if further restrictions are not taken in some areas now.

The Health Secretary told MPs: "I just want to make this point on the numbers.

"In the first peak, around 8% of people caught Covid and 42,000 people died.

"If we don't have the virus under control, even with the better survival rates that we now have thanks to both drug discoveries by British science and improvements in clinical practice, those figures will multiply.

"And in addition, then, harder economic measures would inevitably be needed to get it under control and needed for longer.

"And if you, like me, want our economy back on full throttle then we need to keep this virus in check."

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