Coronavirus: lockdown versus herd immunity

Across Europe, borders are being sealed off, schools are being closed and events are being banned. Italy, Spain and other countries have even imposed curfews. Britain, on the other hand, has held back with drastic measures. The plan there is to allow the population to become infected in a bid to achieve herd immunity. A deadly strategy?

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The Sun (GB) /

Coronavirus: is Britain reacting too slowly?

The British government is right to take due account of the economic impact in its strategy, writes The Sun:

“Saving as many lives as possible is of course the priority. But saving businesses and jobs is becoming alarmingly urgent. The warning from British Airways, that the giant airline is fighting for its very survival, is chilling. But it is only the tip of the iceberg. ... In its first three months, Boris Johnson's new Government has been hit by easily the gravest worldwide crisis since the 2008 crash. ... It must spend whatever it takes to keep healthy firms afloat.”

The Guardian (GB) /

Playing with fire

The Guardian strongly criticises the way the British government is handling the situation:

“Your house is on fire, and the people whom you have trusted with your care are not trying to put it out. Even though they knew it was coming, and could see what happened to the neighbours as they were overwhelmed with terrifying speed, the UK government has inexplicably chosen to encourage the flames, in the misguided notion that somehow they will be able to control them. ... The UK should not be trying to create herd immunity, that will take care of itself. Policy should be directed at slowing the outbreak to a (more) manageable rate.”

La Stampa (IT) /

A risky bet

Business journalist Francesco Guerrera explains in La Stampa the risks of relying on herd immunity:

“The British assume that many people will be infected regardless of what the authorities decide. Their aim isn't to stop the epidemic, as in Italy, but to ensure that the limited resources of the healthcare infrastructure can absorb the peak of the epidemic and then cure the worst cases. The key idea is 'herd immunity' - which relies on the fact that those who survive the virus can no longer be infected. ... British experts speak of a 'balance between infection and hospitalisation'. But even with this 'balance', the number of deaths in the UK could be anywhere between 80,000 and half a million.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

South Korea as role model

South Korea has shown that even a democracy can successfully fight the virus - without resorting to a lockdown, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung points out:

“From the very beginning priorities were set there: no other country has carried out so many tests, hardly anywhere have contact persons been so consistently identified and quarantined. Isolation was a duty to the fatherland. ... Meanwhile, virtually every step of those infected is monitored by an app you can download on your mobile phone. Isolation is a binding principle: this message is not only enforced, it is clearly also understood. Korean democracy is not at risk, nor has confidence in the government been visibly damaged. ... And the success is measurable, lives are being saved.”

El País (ES) /

May the best concept win

Governments are tackling the crisis with a trial-and-error approach, El País notes:

“In no other crisis in the history of mankind has science played such an important role. But instead of a global consensus on how to respond, rarely have we seen such diverse national responses. ... We citizens must realise that our politicians - even if they are guided by the best intentions and the best scientific data available to them - have been wrong and will be wrong. This is how scientific knowledge is developed, through trial and error ... Thanks to such diverse national responses we will be able to see within a relatively short period of time which measures work better. The mistakes will bring us to the right solution.”