180,000 More Brits Would Have to Die to Achieve Herd Immunity | John Murphy

Anti-lockdown activists have recently been claiming that the economic devastation has not been worth it for a virus that has only killed around 30,000 people. They’ve compared it to a bad flu year which kills 50,000 Brits. 

This logic is very low resolution. 30,000 people have died but only around 10% of the population have been infected. To achieve herd immunity we have to have between 60% and 80% of the population infected. So if we do the simple maths it would require another 150,000 deaths to infect 60% of the population. 180,000 deaths to infect 70% and 210,000 more deaths if we had to infect 80% of the population before herd immunity was reached.

Full disclosure, this lockdown was never my first choice of action. I was calling for the shutting down of flights and then quarantining people coming into the country back in January. The government looks like they will finally be doing that long after the horse has bolted. This is a tacit admission that they and the scientists were firmly in the wrong to not do it in January. Border control is the most effective measure against infectious diseases as the native Americans will tell you.

Now we only have bad choices. We could continue with the lockdown and eliminate the disease from our country. This is the strategy New Zealand and Australia are having huge success with. They are already talking about opening up flights to cross the Tasman sea with no quarantine necessary. 

Whilst “cutting yourself off from the world” like this may seem drastic, it’is hardly drastic compared to our current situation of shutting down half the economy. Soon we may have quick and simple tests for Coronavirus that could be done on the plane. Within a few years there will be a vaccine and then even that test won’t be necessary.

Eliminating the disease will take some time. The economy will continue to suffer and more people will die before they disease is finally eliminated from our island.

The herd immunity strategy is pushed as ‘short term pain, long term gain.’ I wish it were so. 180,000 more deaths is not something that can happen quickly, the NHS couldn’t cope. We would need intermittment lockdowns to protect the NHS. It has taken 2 months to infect ~10% of the population with the Coronavirus at a rate the NHS can handle. So to infect 70% at the same rate would take another year. Variolation would speed this along but neither the government nor the medical community has shown any interest in even running studies on it. 

Hopefully Doctors will discover better ways of testing the disease. Hopefully we could shield people in care homes more effectively (not letting staff come and go willy nilly would be a start – they should remain on site.) That would get the death rate down. Hopefully the government would force companies to furlough their older and at risk employees and those that live with them to keep them safe and shielded.

Even if pubs and leisure activists reopened people would not go back. By comparison Australia are planning to reopen their pubs in July. They won’t have a reason to close them again either, by keeping the disease out of their country everyone there is free to return to a normal life. 


Photo by Dunk on Flickr.

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