Public health experts have warned Boris Johnson against pursing herd immunity or mimicking Sweden coronavirus response.
Independent SAGE – an independent group of scientists who provide advice to the government – has warned Britain is in a “dangerous place”.
The committee released a report in which it advised against the strategy of herd immunity or following Sweden’s response to keep borders, shops and restaurants open during a peak, after it emerged Downing Street was briefed by the country’s top scientist, Anders Tegnell.
The report comes after a group of UK scientists advocated for herd immunity in a letter to the Spectator this week.
It said: “A deliberate strategy of attempting to raise the level of population immunity by allowing or encouraging people at lower risk of hospitalisation or death to become infected is not only unlikely to achieve the desired objective of population immunity, but risks a significant amount of avoidable death and illness, without protecting the economy.”
Current evidence suggests immunity would not last longer than a year, the paper warned.
It explained: “In addition, guaranteed shielding of vulnerable groups is infeasible and there would be substantial mortality and morbidity even among the ‘non-vulnerable’.
“It would also increase health and social inequalities, with the most disadvantaged groups, particularly the elderly, deprived and the ethnic minority groups, being disproportionately impacted.”
It went on to say an “excellent” contact tracing system was needed to avoid a second lockdown.
It added: “Other countries have shown that the infection rates can be suppressed without highly damaging ‘lockdowns’ by using established infection control procedures, including excellent contact tracing followed by supported isolation.”
The group published a second report which looked at Sweden’s coronavirus response.
It cautioned against following the advice of Sweden’s chief public health expert.
“The idea that Sweden has no restrictions or lockdown is a misconception and secondly the assertion that its strategy is successful is far from clear.”
It concluded: “There is little to suggest in this chart that Sweden’s strategy is better than its Nordic neighbours (particularly Norway and Finland) and a lot to suggest that it is worse with a much larger burden of disease over spring and the summer.
“While it is certainly possible that the winter will evolve very differently for Sweden compared to the other countries, it is far too early to know.
“We need to recognise that the UK is not Sweden – and what works there might well not work here for the reasons outline above.”