Coronavirus UK: What is herd immunity? Government plan ‘at odds’ with WHO

Coronavirus cases in the UK jumped dramatically today, increasing by 208 to a new total of 798. The illness has continued to sweep much of Europe, but the Government is yet to implement the strategies worst-hit countries have opted for, despite anticipating the deaths of “many loved ones”.

What is herd immunity?

The government laid out a four-stage plan in response to the coronavirus outbreak, covering periods of containment, delay, research and mitigation.

Boris Johnson announced the UK would enter the second stage yesterday following a COBRA meeting on the virus.

Part of entry into the delay phase would involve cultivating “herd immunity” amongst the British public.


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Herd immunity is a method of protection which would see potentially millions of people contract COVID-19.

The system attempts to build up indirect protection against diseases in the general population.

In practice, it involves more than 90 percent of the population building an immunity to a disease which protects the most vulnerable from its effects and prevents extensive spreading.

Herd immunity is built via injection for diseases like measles and protects those with an immune system too weak to have a jab.

While the practice would likely stem the flow of COVID-19, the Government is missing one component: an injection.

Experts estimate a vaccination for the disease is up to a year away, despite fierce efforts to fast-track research.

The Government’s answer to the missing component has drawn fire from established health experts, as it means millions of people will need to contract COVID-19 before the UK achieves herd immunity.

Anthony Costello, former director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), said the policy is “at odds” with the WHO’s current advice.

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In a tweet, he said the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance, who announced the herd immunity strategy, was “at odds” with the World Health Organization (WHO).

He said: “He appears to want #Covid19 to SPREAD to build herd immunity whilst protecting vulnerable groups and flattening the peak.

“This seems at odds with WHO policy and the policies of China, Korea, Japan etc.”

When the WHO announced the progression of COVID-19 into a pandemic earlier this week, the organisation’s chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced it was “dangerous” to mitigate rather than contain the virus.

So far in the UK 10 people have died from COVID-19, all men and women over 60+, some with preexisting conditions.

The Prime Minister has warned more untimely deaths would be on the way.

He told a post-COBRA meeting press conference: “Many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

Experts have also predicted up to 10,000 people might have the virus without knowing it.

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