And Professor Francois Balloux, of University College London, has warned Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific adviser, the approach the UK is currently adopting a big gamble which has the potential to backfire disastrously. As of yesterday morning, the UK now had 1,140 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 21 deaths. More than 31,000 people have undergone tests. Prof Balloux, an expert in infectious diseases, told MailOnline: “In the absence of intervention, I would expect between 20 to 30 per cent of the population will be infected by the summer.”
If accurate, the top end of his prediction would put the total number of cases at 20 million by mid-June.
Sir Patrick is on record as saying roughly 60 percent of the population will need to catch the illness in order to build up a collective immunity.
However, Prof Balloux said this would not happen within three months.
We won’t hit 60 percent by mid-June. There’s no way. If we do, it’ll be an apocalypse
Prof Francois Balloux
He added: “We won’t hit 60 percent by mid-June. There’s no way. If we do, it’ll be an apocalypse.”
Sir Patrick Vallance said around 60 percent of the population will need to catch the virus to build up a national tolerance strong enough to stop the virus circulating, which could overwhelm already swamped NHS hospitals.
But Professor Balloux said: “We won’t hit 60 percent by mid-June. There’s no way. If we do, it’ll be an apocalypse.”
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If the Government applied more stringent measures to control the spread of the outbreak, the number of cases by mid-June would be lower than his figure of 20-30 percent, with infections dropping “drastically” before spiking again with the arrival of the winter months.
Assessing the Government’s plan, which puts it out of step with the rest of Europe, he said: “It could be a wonderful success and, in a few years’ time, people will say they are the cleverest people on earth for saving so many lives in the UK and everyone else got it wrong, or not.”
The UK’s approach to developing “herd immunity” against Covid-19 was yesterday called into question by the World Health Organisation.
Spokeswoman Margaret Harris said not enough was known about the science of the coronavirus, and while “theories” could be talked about, the current situation required “action”.
In an open letter, a group of 229 scientists from UK universities argued that “going for ‘herd immunity’ at this point does not seem a viable option, as this will put NHS at an even stronger level of stress, risking many more lives than necessary”.
A Department of Health and Social care spokesman said: “Herd immunity is not part of our action plan, but is a natural by-product of an epidemic.
“Our aims are to save lives, protect the most vulnerable, and relieve pressure on our NHS.”
Speaking on Sky’s Ridge On Sunday, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “The World Health Organisation is saying that we should continue testing and contact tracing.
“They’re saying that is the best way to break the chain of contagion.
“The UK have taken a different view that if you feel ill that you just stay at home for seven days and won’t be tested.
“Many people are saying to me that they need a Covid-19 test if they’re ill because they need to know whether they should be interacting with other people in a few weeks’ time.”
He added: “So I just need to understand better why the Government is taking a different approach, based on its science, from other countries and I think that’s why it is so important that all the scientific modelling for example is published.”
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