Good Morning Britain celebrity doctor Hilary Jones has sparred with a pro-Brexit journalist over her comments on herd immunity.
The row erupted when former Times journalist Isabel Oakeshott locked horns with Dr Gabriel Scally, who sits on the independent board of SAGE, on the issue of herd immunity.
Oakeshott argued that younger people should be exempt from lockdown restrictions because they were least likely to die or suffer long-term effects of the coronavirus.
“Shield the most vulnerable otherwise let the vast majority of people who are not very, very seriously affected by the coronavirus get on with their lives,” she urged.
“Let’s put these statistics in context. The average age of a Covid death is 82 – that is older than the life expectancy.”
Oakeshott’s comments provoked a strong reaction from Dr Hilary, who slammed suggestions the elderly could be shielded from the virus while the majority of the population return to normal life.
“You can’t protect in a focused way the elderly, the vulnerable. You just can’t. It didn’t work in Sweden and it hasn’t worked anywhere else in the world.
“And if we just say ‘let it run riot’ then we will have an overwhelmed NHS, ICU beds full of Covid-19.”
He added: “Young people can get this too. And many people can get long-Covid symptoms for many months afterwards.”
Dr Hilary drew people’s attention to the disproportionate death rate among the BAME community and NHS staff where people under 40 were dying from the virus.
He warned: “To let it run riot is reckless.”
Scally, a former public health director, said Britain desperately needed a well-functioning track and trace system.
“We need to get away from thinking about just restrictions,” he told viewers. “The serious problem is to get a very good system of track, trace, test, and isolate in place and that’s what we don’t have and that’s what really works.”
Scally said the government could take lessons from Germany’s test and trace system, which he said had been quite successful and slammed the news that the NHS Test and Trace has only delivered one alert since it started.
“That’s where the failure is and it’s because of that failure that we are seeing that upsurge in cases.”
He said following a strategy of herd immunity, recently promoted by group of scientists, would be a “complete and absolute” disaster for the country.
Twitter users gave mixed responses to the interview.
@ethelmurmanknee accused Oakeshott of “howling at the moon again”.
Joanne wrote: “Isabel completely disregarded Dr Hilary’s point that only a small number of us have actually been exposed to the virus so her ‘statistics’ would be way off what could happen if all younger people were free to do whatever they wanted.”
@Themisj13 added: “Death is not the only consequence. Long-term health issues are starting to emerge from COVID infection (irrespective of age, severity of infection or if asymptomatic) can be life changing or indeed life limiting. We’d all love this to be a simple problem with a simple solution: it isn’t.”
Death is not the only consequence. LT health issues are starting to emerge from COVID infection (irrespective of age, severity of infection or if asymptomatic) can be life changing or indeed life limiting. We'd all love this to be a simple problem with a simple solution: it isn't
— Themis (@ThemisJ3) October 9, 2020
Sean added: “I think run riot is a bit strong. We have done well to allow…not deliberately probably, some virus through the less vulnerable population (students and healthy adults) we have to stop massive community transmission to prevent spread to the vulnerable.”