UK’s ‘herd immunity’ Covid technique a ‘public well being failure’: Inquiry

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A woman adjusts her husband’s mask before entering a shop in Hampshire, England, UK

Peter Titmuss | Collection mix: subjects | Getty Images

LONDON – The UK government’s approach to tackling the coronavirus outbreak at the start of the pandemic has been cited as one of the country’s worst public health failures of all time, according to an investigation by UK lawmakers.

The report, which examined the UK’s initial response to the Covid pandemic, found that the government had made huge mistakes at the start of the global outbreak, including its obvious decision to allow Covid to spread through the population in order to ” Herd immunity ”. “And his reluctance to seal off the country.

“Bans and social distancing decisions in the first few weeks of the pandemic – and the advice that led to them – are among the most important public health failures the UK has ever seen,” the 150-page report was released on Found Tuesday after an investigation by two parliamentary committees.

The UK government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has been accused of hesitation when the Covid pandemic hit Europe in early 2020 and appeared reluctant to restrict public life, travel or borders.

Although never officially announced, the UK’s initial approach to Covid (that of trying to “contain” the spread of the virus to trying to “delay” it) has been widely recognized as a way of achieving one “Herd immunity” viewed.

‘Fatal Early Mistake’

A high level of immunity to a virus in a population can be achieved both through natural infection (through the formation of antibodies when fighting a virus) and through vaccination.

The latter route is generally preferred because it avoids adverse effects such as excessive virus deaths. However, with no Covid vaccines available at the beginning of the pandemic, some countries like the UK and Sweden seemed to be in favor of some spread of the virus in the population in order to achieve levels of herd immunity in their populations.

The strategy resulted in Covid-19 cases swiftly sweeping the UK, but causing thousands of elderly deaths and a burden on the National Health Service. The British government (and later, to a lesser extent, Swedes) changed course and imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 26th.

The investigation, which involved evidence from over 50 “witnesses”, including senior officials and health professionals who advised the government during the pandemic, was devastating in its assessment of the government’s original approach and found that it was “in practice “An unfortunate pursuit of herd immunity.

“When the government moved from the ‘contain’ phase to the ‘delay’ phase, that approach was to control the spread of Covid among the population rather than stopping it altogether. This in practice equated to accepting this herd immunity through infection. ”Was the inevitable result given that the UK had no firm prospect of a vaccine, limited testing capacity and the widespread belief that the public would not be banned for an extended period of time would accept, “the report said.

In doing so, Britain made “a grave early mistake in adopting this fatalistic approach and not considering a more forceful and rigorous approach to contain the spread of the virus as pursued by many East and Southeast Asian countries,” the investigation found.

On January 19, 2021, medics transfer a patient from an ambulance to the Royal London Hospital in London.

Tolga Akmen | AFP | Getty Images

Groupthink

The report added that the fact that the UK approach reflects a consensus between official scientific advisers and the government indicates “a certain level of groupthink” which “means we do not do so for approaches pursued elsewhere.” were open as we should have been ”.

The investigation, overseen by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Welfare Committee (made up of lawmakers from the UK’s three main political parties), examined six key areas in the country’s response to Covid-19. This included preparing the UK for a pandemic and being ready to use non-pharmaceutical interventions such as border controls, social distancing and lockdowns to combat the pandemic.

Read more: Will herd immunity ever be possible with the spread of Covid mutations?

It also looked at the use of testing, tracking and isolation strategies and the impact of the pandemic on welfare and specific communities, and ultimately the procurement and adoption of Covid-19 vaccines.

Highlighting its results, the research concluded that:

  • “The delays in establishing an adequate testing, tracking and isolation system have hampered efforts to understand and contain the outbreak and have failed to achieve its stated goal of avoiding lockdowns.”
  • “The initial decision to postpone a full lockdown – despite practice elsewhere in the world – reflected a fatalism about the spread of Covid that should have been decidedly challenged at this point.”
  • “Social welfare was not given enough priority in the early stages of the pandemic.”
  • “The anticipatory planning, agility and determined organization of efforts to develop and deliver vaccines” was a big plus and should be a guide for future government practice.

In addition, the investigation found that the UK’s pandemic preparation had been generally welcomed in advance, but was performing less well in practice than many other countries. He also said the pandemic underscored the need for an urgent and long-term strategy to tackle health inequalities.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, visits a pharmaceutical manufacturing facility on February 13, 2021 during a visit to northeast England.

WPA pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Nonetheless, there were also bright spots in the report and examples of “global best practice”, with praise for the government’s procurement and rapid roll-out of Covid vaccines, where the UK ordered, approved and deployed Covid vaccines before most countries . To date, government data shows that 85.5% of the UK population over 12 years of age are fully vaccinated, with booster vaccinations now being introduced for the most vulnerable.

‘Big mistakes’ in dark times

Britain was hard hit by the pandemic, recording over 8.2 million cases of the virus and over 138,000 deaths. Critics argue that inadequate government responses in some areas of the pandemic, such as the testing and tracing system that was plagued with problems during the pandemic, cost thousands of lives.

In its conclusions, the research noted that both the positive and negative effects of the government’s response to the pandemic need to be reflected on to ensure that lessons are learned in the hope that these can be used in future emergency responses.

Read more: This is why herd immunity against Covid with the Delta variant is “mythical”

In total, 38 recommendations were made in the report that legislators said could better equip the UK, including calling for “greater diversity of skills and challenges” from both home and abroad, to help plan future pandemics.

In a joint statement summarizing their findings, the chairs of the two parliamentary committees overseeing the investigation said the UK’s response “combined some big successes with some big mistakes”.

“Our vaccine program was boldly planned and carried out effectively. Our testing and tracking program took too long to take effect. The government took scientific advice seriously, but the early British consensus that delayed a wider lockdown should have been more challenged by everyone if countries like South Korea showed a different approach is possible, “said Jeremy Hunt, chairman of the health service and Social Committee, and Greg Clark, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee.

They acknowledged that at the beginning of the public health emergency so much was unknown that it was “impossible to get everything right” and thanked a variety of sectors, from the NHS and public workers to the scientific community and millions of others Volunteers “who answered”. rise to the challenge with dedication, compassion and hard work to help the entire nation in one of our darkest times. ”

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