Coronavirus: Ex-WHO boss questions UK's "herd immunity" approach

14 March 2020, 14:22

By Seán Hickey

Plans for the UK government's "herd immunity" strategy for combatting coronavirus have been criticised by the World Health Organisation.

Herd immunity is the practice of purposely infecting a large percentage of the population to give them immunity to a virus and thereby preventing them spreading an infection to the remainder of the population.

Professor Anthony Costello, ex-director of maternal and child health at the World Health Organisation joined Matt Frei on the line to express a view on why the herd immunity strategy wouldn't work.

"I think it's a kind of surrender" he initially stated. Professor Costello made a point about the reaction of China to the outbreak and how their lessons learned through not acting fast enough on the spread of Covid-19 has proved to set a precedent for the rest of the world.

After an initial relaxed approach to the spread, China took serious action on coronavirus where "they got the test result time down from 4 days to 4 hours" and are now relaxing quarantine on parts of the country in lockdown.

The measures taken by China have been adopted by countries such as New Zealand, Israel and Denmark where infections have remained low, to which Matt Frei asked "why aren't we doing it here".

Coronavirus: Ex-WHO boss questions UK&squot;s "herd immunity" approach
Coronavirus: Ex-WHO boss questions UK's "herd immunity" approach. Picture: PA

Mr. Costello was baffled by the UK's reluctance to adopt the Chinese model, making the point that "in 7 weeks China stopped the epidemic in its tracks".

The professor questioned the government's herd immunity strategy, brushing off the claim to "just let 60% of the population get it" as ridiculous.

Professor Anthony Costello pointed out that if herd immunity is implemented "that could mean 6 million hospital admissions" and most worryingly, could result in deaths on par with "134 Nine Elevens".