Scientists from the University College London have announced that Britain is set to reach herd immunity from COVID-19 within days. This, according to the scientists, represents a “milestone” in the fight against the coronavirus.
Citing real-time modelling carried out by the UCL, the scientists indicate that the UK should pass the critical threshold where the proportion of people who have protection against the virus either through vaccination, previous infection or natural immunity will hit 73.4% on Monday, 12 April.
Speaking to reporters about UCL’s assertion, Professor Karl Friston, a theoretical neuroscientist at the University explained how herd immunity is achieved.
“It’s like a chain reaction. If you remove the opportunity for the virus to spread from one person to more than one person then it will die out.”
He, however, warned against any move to speed up the easing of lockdown restrictions in response to reaching herd immunity.
“If we let up, that threshold will go up again. We will find ourselves below the threshold and it will explode again.
“It doesn’t mean to say that we should suddenly change our approach to unlocking or social distancing. The herd immunity threshold itself will depend upon transmission risks that depend upon things like social distancing.”
Referring to the modelling, Prof Friston revealed that, “We do this in an ongoing way every week.”
“This week portends a herd immunity threshold crossing, which is a milestone in coming out of the epidemic phase of the pandemic.
“This is just a milestone. It’s a nice milestone that is a reflection of the fact that things are going as planned. It does suggest that it is unlikely there is going to be a post-summer or autumn surge in fatalities or hospital admissions.”
Planning for “irreversible” freedom
UCL’s announcement comes amid reports that more than six million people in the UK are now fully vaccinated against COVID. The reports also indicate that nearly 32 million people have had their first dose.
Pressed on the issue of herd immunity, Health Secretary, Matt Hancock told reporters that he prefers to “watch the data.”
“I was told by some scientists that we were going to have herd immunity in May and then in June and then after that.
“What I prefer to do is watch the data. We have set out the roadmap. The roadmap is really clear. It is our route back to normal.”
“I think we have taken the right course in plotting our way to freedom and doing it carefully, because we want it to be irreversible.”
England is set to ease lockdown measures on Monday, 12th April, meaning that non-essential retail shops, restaurants and pubs will reopen.
Professor Karl Friston noted that the government’s roadmap out of lockdown “seems to be pitched at about the right level.”
“We have got to come out of this very, very gracefully and slowly;and in a context-dependent way that depends upon progressive reduction in the prevalence of infection. That’s going to be a process that takes weeks and months.”