Before this terrifying pandemic, no one had ever heard of two medical terms: ‘Coronavirus’ and ‘Herd Immunity’.
Since early January, the former term has been spoken constantly by newsreaders, politicians; even your local fishmonger. One hopes that by now, everyone understands what a Coronavirus is. The latter term however has been met with confusion not just by the general public, but also by politicians in the high echelons of government. This may suggest why, four days after the UK government announced their plan of Herd Immunity on March 12th, they made a complete reversal of strategy, hoping not to be caught, and instead headed full steam towards containment of the pandemic by imposing social distancing and restricting public life in general. This colossal error in judgment by the government to recognise the complete idiocy of their actions may cost hundreds of ordinary people’s lives, which the top officials will have to carry with them forever.
The term ‘Herd Immunity’ in a nutshell describes when a large percentage of the population of a nation achieves immunity from a disease, either by contracting and subsequently recovering from said disease or by a vaccine. The result is that a large majority of the population become totally immune to the infection, meaning that they can protect the vulnerable who have not yet contracted the disease or received the vaccine. Because such a large proportion society become immune, infection chains are broken far more easily. This causes the infection rate to slow and eventually shutdown completely.
However, there is a crucial condition that must be understood by everyone if Herd Immunity is a viable medical option. The crucial consideration to accept is that IF Herd Immunity is to be exercised WITHOUT a vaccine (like the UK were operating between March 12th and March 16th), then a large percentage of society will subsequently contract the disease. And, sadly, not everyone will recover. Infection of certain demographics cannot be controlled. A government cannot control who contracts the disease and who doesn’t. Moreover, even Herd Immunity coupled with a vaccination and the isolation of the vulnerable would mean that after a while, whilst the majority of people would become immune, small demographics of vulnerable people would still be susceptible to the disease. This would result in a ‘cordon sanitaire’ to be placed around certain demographics, which theoretically would have to remain in place indefinitely. Therefore, Herd Immunity without vaccination is not just a ridiculous preventive measure. Its borderline genocidal.
This is what the UK government realised on March 16th (four days before they should have done). With no viable vaccination, and after adjusting their research models to reflect the Herd Immunity protocol, they realised that it would be political suicide and arguably a crime against humanity to continue. Moreover, stories coming from Italy (the worst infected EU nation at the time) concerning the sheer scale of patients requiring ICUs made Boris Johnson realise that allowing the coronavirus to continue unhindered would have been idiotic, to put it most mildly.
If the government were willing to impose Herd Immunity without a vaccine as their official line of action, then they must have realised the consequences before doing so. Without a vaccine and if Herd Immunity was continued past March 16th, then this would have meant an extremely large proportion of the population contracting the disease. However, Herd Immunity was the government’s line of action for four days. Four days of mass interaction throughout the country. This may have cost hundreds of lives that were preventable if the government had not actioned Herd Immunity on March 12th and instead entered a lockdown period and imposed social distancing.
Moreover, with ICU capacity ever-tightening and PP equipment ever-shortening, the aim now is to restrict movement as much as possible. But this should have been the government’s aim all along. Even the notion of Herd Immunity being actioned, when estimates show that a vaccine will not be ready for large-scale distribution until 2021, shows either total naivety towards the magnitude of the problem that we are faced with, or a complete disregard for human life, even if the programme was operational for only four days. That is four days too long.
The public must remember this catastrophic mistake by the government, no matter how much they try to cover it up (and they will). The coronavirus has no preference to who it infects. Indeed, our own Prime Minister has been in intensive care since April 6th, along with thousands of others. And it will get worse. This virus will not go away for a long time.
A global pandemic of this scale has never occurred before, in terms of its breadth and severity. It has ripped up the carpet under which we were hiding; revealing our unpreparedness, naivety, and belief that we sit at the summit of the biological chain. We are not the penultimate synthesis of the Hegelian dialectic, and the sooner we realise that the better.
(Editor’s note: I personally wish everyone who is suffering from COVID-19, both physically, emotionally and psychologically, a speedy recover and as little pain endured in the process. Also, I wish everyone who is fighting other infectious diseases, which in a time of global crisis can be forgotten, a speedy recover and as little pain endured I the process.)