Health Secretary dismisses possibility of Covid-19 herd immunity

Herd immunity against Covid-19 is not possible, even if everyone catches it, Matt Hancock has said.

The Health Secretary dismissed the strategy as “flawed” as he set out new coronavirus restrictions for the country.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock 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.”

Conservative former minister Steve Baker said a vaccine may not be found nor be effective, adding the Government’s strategy is “propped up” on quantitative easing (QE) and “ultra cheap” credit.

He suggested finding an alternative strategy between the Great Barrington Declaration, which seeks an easing of lockdown measures and protecting the most vulnerable, and what is currently taking place.

Mr Baker said: “I think you have to a peculiarly high level of education to believe we can head towards £745 billion of QE, ultra low or negative interest rates and that all this will not be a problem.

“I think it will be a problem and it’s precarious indeed that the Government’s strategy is propped up on such a monetary policy.”

Mr Baker said of the declaration: “No-one can deny it is well-motivated.

“Indeed they say keeping these measures – lockdown policies around the world in place until a vaccine is available – will cause irreparable damage with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.”

He cited a critique of the declaration that suggested humility and alternatives are hallmarks of good science, adding: “For the reasons I have given, I am convinced the Government must find an alternative strategic plan between the Great Barrington Declaration and where we are today.”