PM’s virus adviser warns Britain might still need to adopt herd immunity in its fight against coronavirus as lockdown measures have painted the country ‘into a corner’

  • Professor Graham Medley says the lockdown measures could devastate the UK  
  • He warned controversial herd immunity may be the only solution to the virus 
  • Prof Medley described it as trade-off between harming the young versus the old
  • Initially suggested, herd immunity was ruled out and considered to be too risky 

Boris Johnson’s chief adviser on the coronavirus has warned that Britain might still have to adopt the controversial herd immunity policy to defeat the pandemic.   

Professor Graham Medley, the government’s chief pandemic modeller, said lockdown measures have pushed the UK ‘into a corner’, with no way of lifting restrictions while keeping the virus under control. 

Now, he has suggested that the country consider letting people catch coronavirus to build up resistance.

The alternative, under current lockdown measures, means the UK could be left facing mounting unemployment, domestic violence and mental ill health.

He has described it as a trade-off between harming the young versus the old.

Professor Graham Medley, the government’s chief pandemic modeller, says Britain may still need to adopt herd immunity

Early on as the outbreak began to take hold, it was suggested that one way of beating the virus was by allowing 80 per cent of Britons to get infected to build ‘herd immunity’. 

Herd immunity is when enough people become resistant to a disease – through vaccination or previous exposure – that it can no longer significantly spread among the rest of the population.

However, the plan would have risked leaving the most vulnerable at high risk of death and serious illness and was quickly ruled out by Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

But Prof Medley is now warning that the controversial method may be the only solution.  

Under his modelling, simply allowing people back to work or school would cause a resurgence in cases of the virus.

He said an anti-body test, which shows whether a person has had the virus and could therefor be immune, could help, but that one had never before been used in the management of such an outbreak.

Under his modelling, simply allowing people back to work or school after the lockdown would cause a resurgence in cases of the virus

A professor of infectious disease modelling at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, he said: ‘This disease is so nasty that we had to suppress it completely.

‘Then we’ve kind of painted ourselves into a corner, because then the question will be what do we do now?’

He said there was a ‘big decision’ to be made on April 13, when the government reviews the lockdown measures.

‘In broad terms are we going to continue to harm children to protect vulnerable people, or not?’ he said.

Prof Medley, a member of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), added: ‘The measures to control [the disease] cause harm.

‘The principal one is economic, and I don’t mean to the economy generally, I mean to the incomes of people who rely on a continuous stream of money and their children, particularly the school closure aspect.’

He said there will be ‘actual harms’ in terms of mental health, domestic violence, child abuse and food poverty.

Lockdown ‘buys more time’ but ‘doesn’t resolve anything’, he said.

Ministers have reportedly not yet been briefed on work to quantify the health impacts of the lockdown. 

It comes as the UK announced 684 more coronavirus deaths yesterday, taking the total number of fatalities to 3,605.

Yet again the number is a record one-day high – this has been the case almost every day this week, with each day since Tuesday announcing more victims than the last.

The new numbers mean the number of people dead from COVID-19 in the UK has risen five-fold in a week, from just 759 last Friday, March 27.

The numbers behind the UK’s crisis have escalated rapidly over the past seven days and Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said the virus ‘continues its grim march’. He admitted that next week is likely to be worse still, potentially topping out at more than 1,000 deaths per day by Easter Sunday.

Britain is still being hammered by the consequences of huge numbers of people catching the coronavirus before the country went into total lockdown last week. The increases being seen each day are ‘expected’, scientists say.

Experts say it could take another couple of weeks before the benefits of social distancing start to show in NHS statistics – but they insist that the outbreak will taper off and the daily numbers will start to fall.

The Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make PPE and coronavirus tests to come forward (pictured, one of the forms)

Matt Hancock and the chief nursing officer, Ruth May, said in today’s briefing that people must resist the urge to break isolation and go out this weekend, when sunny weather is expected. Mr Hancock said: ‘We cannot relax our discipline now. If we do, people will die. This advice is not a request – it is an instruction.’

The Government yesterday also penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus tests to come forward – despite firms who offered help weeks ago saying they still have not heard back about helping tackle Britain’s growing crisis.

In a desperate attempt to get a grip of the testing fiasco and nationwide shortage of protective equipment for NHS staff, the Department for Health and Social Care supplied two forms for British manufacturers to fill out if they could step up to help.

But MailOnline can reveal one firm poised to supply DIY coronavirus antibody tests to Number 10 – kits deemed crucial in ending Britain’s draconian lockdown because they reveal who is immune to the disease – has yet to hear back on how it can get its test approved despite approaching them last month.

Brigette Bard, chief executive of Essex-based firm BioSure – which already makes HIV self-tests, demanded Public Health England offers clarity on what it needs, saying ‘there is nothing more critical at the moment’ than getting antibody tests approved.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, pictured at the opening of the Nightingale Hospital in London today, suggested the UK’s lockdown will be in place until the end of April at the earliest

She added in a video that PHE were not looking at her company’s test because it was a self-test – claims which a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson furiously refuted, branding Ms Bard’s words as ‘untrue and misleading’.  

Commercial laboratories and scientists drafted in to help yesterday after a screeching U-turn by ministers also exposed Downing Street’s incompetence today, claiming they had offered two weeks ago to help the Government dramatically scale-up its swab testing capacity but were ignored. 

One man running a fully-equipped lab in Leicester revealed his firm had offered to help the Government but was now testing private clients on its own.

He said: ‘We approached the NHS on March 17 to offer our assistance and said we were happy to use all our capacity for NHS work and we’ve been trying to get a response since then.’ 

Scientists at the University of Oxford, one of the world’s top institutions, said they also had not had their offers of help taken up by British authorities. 

Matthew Freeman, a biologist at the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology at Oxford University said in a tweet: ‘We have many people experienced in PCR.

‘We’d love to help and have been trying to volunteer for weeks. Must be many university departments and institutes in similar position.’ 

UK announces 684 more coronavirus victims today: Total death toll reaches 3,605 and more than 38,000 people have now tested positive for the infection as Matt Hancock warns there could be 1,000 deaths per DAY by Easter

The UK has announced 684 more coronavirus deaths today, taking the total number of fatalities to 3,605. 

Yet again the number is a record one-day high – this has been the case almost every day this week, with each day since Tuesday announcing more victims than the last.

Yesterday there were a record 569 new fatalities announced by the Department of Health and today’s statistics show a rise 20 per cent larger.

The new numbers mean the number of people dead from COVID-19 in the UK has risen five-fold in a week, from just 759 last Friday, March 27.

The numbers behind the UK’s crisis have escalated rapidly over the past seven days and Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said the virus ‘continues its grim march’. He admitted that next week is likely to be worse still, potentially topping out at more than 1,000 deaths per day by Easter Sunday. 

Britain is still being hammered by the consequences of huge numbers of people catching the coronavirus before the country went into total lockdown last week. The increases being seen each day are ‘expected’, scientists say.

Experts say it could take another couple of weeks before the benefits of social distancing start to show in NHS statistics – but they insist that the outbreak will taper off and the daily numbers will start to fall.

The UK’s coronavirus outbreak is expected to get worse before it gets better, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said (Pictured: Paramedics working in London)

Matt Hancock and the chief nursing officer, Ruth May, said in today’s briefing that people must resist the urge to break isolation and go out this weekend, when sunny weather is expected. Mr Hancock said: ‘We cannot relax our discipline now. If we do, people will die. This advice is not a request – it is an instruction.’   

And officials maintain that the NHS is coping well with the strain so far and there are now more than 2,000 spare intensive care beds available across the country, as well as ventilators available for patients who need them.  

But the Government is facing a huge backlash over its coronavirus testing policy. Mr Hancock last night pledged to ramp up to carrying out 100,000 tests per day by the end of April after being criticised for the UK currently only managing around 10,000 daily.

He was then forced to admit, however, that this did not include antibody tests, which reveal if someone has already recovered from the illness and are considered vital for ending the UK’s lockdown. He also said that the Government still hasn’t found one it thinks it good enough to use.

And scientists at private research companies and university labs around the country have said they offered to help the Government with analysing swab test results weeks ago but never heard back because Public Health England insisted on doing all the work internally. 

Officials have now opened this up and penned a letter pleading for businesses to get in touch if they are able to make antigen or antibody testing kits or protective equipment. One company told MailOnline it still has not heard from the Government despite offering to produce tests a month ago.

In other developments in the worldwide coronavirus crisis:

  • Two NHS nurses – Areema Nasreen, 36, and Aimee O’Rourke, 39, have died after catching the coronavirus, taking the death toll of frontline health workers to seven;
  • The Government is enrolling COVID-19 patients in three major clinical trials in NHS hospitals to test what types of treatments can be used. One of them already has 926 people involved;
  • Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway’s husband, Derek Draper, 52, is in intensive care with a severe case of COVID-19;
  • The Queen will address the nation in a televised speech about the coronavirus on Sunday;
  • Teachers will submit ‘carefully considered’ GCSE and A-Level grades for their students after coronavirus cancelled exams – but regulators will crack down on over-generous marking;
  • Premier League clubs will ask their players to take wage cuts of up to 30 per cent and will donate £20million to the NHS after Matt Hancock hinted they should not be drawing full pay; 
  • Beijing’s chief medical adviser on coronavirus, Zhong Nanshan, said the world is heading for disaster if the US can’t get a grip on its outbreak. There have been around 250,000 confirmed cases there      
  • The funeral of  Britain’s youngest coronavirus victim – 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab – was held today without his family present because they are in isolation after developing symptoms; 
  • The Prince of Wales officially opened the new NHS Nightingale Hospital for intensive care coronavirus patients, saying from 530 miles away that it was a message of hope for those who may need it most; 
  • Health chiefs urged locked-down Britons to continue staying at home to help fight the coronavirus pandemic this weekend as a mini-heatwave is due to sweep the country;
  • Sainsbury’s has said it will no longer allow couples to shop together in a bid to maintain social distancing; 
  • Heathrow Airport announced it will remain operational with one runway amid falling flight numbers and fury from passengers at lack of medical advice when they arrive back from coronavirus hotspots.

Public Health England said 173,784 people have now been tested for the coronavirus – 7,651 people were tested yesterday, Thursday, a total of 11,764 times. 

And NHS England, which collects data on the deaths which happen in England, said 604 of the new fatalities happened in its hospitals, with patients aged between 24 and 100.

WHERE DID TODAY’S CORONAVIRUS DEATHS HAPPEN? 

  • London: 161
  • Midlands: 150
  • North West: 88 
  • East of England: 66 
  • North East & Yorkshire: 62 
  • Scotland: 46
  • South East: 41
  • South West: 36
  • Wales: 24
  • Northern Ireland: 12

Total: 686 

NB: The totals of all countries’ separate counts add up to more than the official total for the UK because the Department of Health stops recorded at 5pm the day before it publishes the statistics. Some of the deaths outside of England will be counted in tomorrow’s total for Britain. 

Thirty-four of the patients had been healthy before they caught COVID-19 and they ranged in age from 27 and 92, reiterating that young people with no long-term illnesses can still be killed by the infection.

Tributes have today been pouring out to 36-year-old nurse and mother of three in Walsall, Areema Nasreen, who died today in the hospital where she had worked before becoming ill – Walsall Manor Hospital in the Midlands.

A change in the information published by the NHS today has seen the health service shift away from naming the hospitals where patients have died and the dates they died on. Instead it has shifted to regional totals as the numbers become too large for specific details to be realistic.

It revealed that today’s death toll includes 161 patients in London, 150 in the Midlands, 88 in the North West, 66 in the East of England, 62 in the North East & Yorkshire, 41 in the South East and 36 in the South West.

Scotland today announced 46 more fatalities, Wales 24 and Northern Ireland 12.

The totals of all countries’ separate counts add up to more than the official total for the UK because the Department of Health stops recorded at 5pm the day before it publishes the statistics. Some of the deaths outside of England will be counted in tomorrow’s total for Britain. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today warned the UK’s coronavirus outbreak could peak over the Easter weekend and by next Sunday up to 1,000 people a day could be dying from the deadly disease.

Mr Hancock said it was ‘perfectly possible’ that the current numbers of deaths being seen each day could double next week.

It came after he was forced to admit his pledge to boost COVID-19 testing capacity to 100,000 per day by the end of April did not include antibody kits, which are seen as crucial to getting the UK back up and running because they can reveal who has had, and is now immune to, the coronavirus.

Number 10 yesterday performed a screeching U-turn on its testing policy as it abandoned the previous centralised approach by health chiefs and finally invited the wider science and medical research sectors to help, with private labs now joining the effort to process thousands of swab tests.

But the Government’s shambolic handling of the testing crisis was today exposed by scientists and commercial laboratories, who claimed they offered to help the government two weeks ago to increase antigen testing – which only tells if someone is currently infected – but were ignored.

GOVERNMENT BEGS FIRMS WHO CAN MAKE CORONAVIRUS TESTS TO COME FORWARD – DESPITE FIRS SAYING THEY HAVEN’T HEARD BACK FOR WEEKS 

The Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make PPE and coronavirus tests to come forward (pictured, one of the forms)

The Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus tests to come forward – despite firms who offered help weeks ago saying they still have not heard back about helping tackle Britain’s growing crisis.

In a desperate attempt to get a grip of the testing fiasco and nationwide shortage of protective equipment for NHS staff, the Department for Health and Social Care supplied two forms for British manufacturers to fill out if they could step up to help.

But MailOnline can reveal one firm poised to supply DIY coronavirus antibody tests to Number 10 – kits deemed crucial in ending Britain’s draconian lockdown because they reveal who is immune to the disease – has yet to hear back on how it can get its test approved despite approaching them last month. 

Brigette Bard, chief executive of Essex-based firm BioSure – which already makes HIV self-tests, demanded Public Health England offers clarity on what it needs, saying ‘there is nothing more critical at the moment’ than getting antibody tests approved.

Commercial laboratories and scientists drafted in to help yesterday after a screeching U-turn by ministers also exposed Downing Street’s incompetence today, claiming they had offered two weeks ago to help the Government dramatically scale-up its swab testing capacity but were ignored.

Ramping up swab testing – often called antigen testing – is also viewed as crucial because it allows officials to test thousands of self-isolating health workers and to say for certain whether they have the disease, allowing those who are free of the killer infection to return to the NHS frontline.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock last night unveiled a five-point plan to boost COVID-19 testing capacity to 100,000 a day by the end of April – levels similar to those seen in Germany, which has been praised for its quick reaction to keeping the pandemic under control.

But Mr Hancock was forced to admit the six-figure target did not include antibody tests. None of the fingerprick kits have yet to be approved by health chiefs amid fears over their accuracy. Mr Hancock last night claimed one of the tests he was being urged to buy was wrong 75 per cent of the time.

Medics fighting the coronavirus crisis on the frontline have begged the Government to provide proper face masks, gloves and aprons amid claims of a nationwide shortage. The British Medical Association has already warned that doctors will die unless they are given adequate protection.

Increasing swab testing – sometimes called antigen testing – is viewed as crucial because it allows officials to test more self-isolating health workers and to say for certain whether they have the disease, allowing those who do not to return to the NHS frontline.

Public Health England is believed to be assessing up to 150 different antibody tests but several kits have already failed medical checks, including one that was wrong 75 per cent of the time. 

Officials have not revealed how accurate the tests need to be before they will finally give them the green-light.

Manufacturers of antibody tests who have sent them to PHE for assessment today said there was still no clarity on whether their kits were going to be used despite some claiming their devices are 98 per cent accurate. 

But the Government today penned an open letter pleading for firms who can make personal protective equipment (PPE) and coronavirus tests to come forward – despite firms who offered help weeks ago saying they still have not heard back about helping tackle Britain’s growing crisis.  

In a desperate attempt to get a grip on the fiasco, the Department for Health and Social Care supplied two forms for British manufacturers to fill out if they could step up to help.

But MailOnline can reveal one firm poised to supply DIY coronavirus antibody tests to Number 10 – kits deemed crucial in ending Britain’s draconian lockdown because they reveal who is immune to the disease – has yet to hear back on how it can get its test approved despite approaching them last month.

Brigette Bard, chief executive of Essex-based firm BioSure – which already makes HIV self-tests, demanded Public Health England offers clarity on what it needs, saying ‘there is nothing more critical at the moment’ than getting antibody tests approved. 

In an attack on the Government’s handling of the antibody testing shambles, Ms Bard said: ‘We urgently need a specification from Public Health England, so we know what we have to achieve. 

‘Matt Hancock has been on all the press this morning saying “antibody tests don’t work, self-tests don’t work” but nobody knows what they are supposed to be working to.

‘I want to know, if all these tests are failing and they’re no good, what are they being benchmarked against? Saying a test is a failure when you don’t know what failure is. I just don’t understand it.’ 

She added there is an industry-recognised specification needed for the HIV self-testing kits BioSure makes to be brought to market, with the products needing to be at least 99.5 per cent accurate. 

But Ms Bard, who yesterday resorted to social media for Britons to share a post calling on health chiefs to look at the firm’s kit, fears the Government does not yet have a standard for COVID-19 tests.

She warned the company cannot start to manufacture the kits – which are just its HIV tests recalibrated to pick up on the coronavirus – until it knows what the benchmark for accuracy is. 

Ms Bard told MailOnline: ‘We have spent five years very successfully in the market generating masses of evidence, data, everything, so we have proven we have a highly usable, highly accurate test.’

In a plea on Twitter last night, she added: ‘We are ready to go with the validation of this test at PHE. But they won’t look at it because it’s a self-test… This test needs to be in the UK market.’

MailOnline has asked the Department for Health and Social Care for comment because Public Health England says it is not responsible for approving any kind of test – even though its laboratories are being used to evaluate some. 

Explaining the sluggishness in hiking test numbers, Mr Hancock yesterday said approving faulty tests would put people at risk.

‘I understand why NHS staff want tests, so they can get back to the frontline. Of course I do,’ he said at the Government’s briefing last night.

‘But I took the decision that the first priority has to be the patients for whom the result of a test could be the difference in treatment that is the difference between life and death

‘I believe anybody in my shoes would have taken the same decision.’

First Minister for Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said in a briefing today that her ministers have not found a reliable antibody test either.

 

Source: Read Full Article