OPINION: Forget facemasks and social distancing, herd immunity is best coronavirus solution

Dr Henry Mannings suggests not wearing masks and scrapping social distancing for healthy people woul

Dr Henry Mannings suggests not wearing masks and scrapping social distancing for healthy people would allow herd immunity to develop and potentially weaken the impact of coronavirus. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Dr Henry Mannings, founder of the Great Ellingham-based charity Hey Jude offers his take on how to deal with coronavirus

In March, we all thought that the lockdown would last a few weeks but, six months on, we were told that we are no longer allowed to meet in groups of more than six. In addition, the scaremongers are telling us that many more will die in a second wave later this year

So lets take a step back in time and remind us why the lockdown was introduced. We were informed by scientific advisors to the government back in March, which based on their models, the NHS would be unable to cope, both with hospital cases and admissions to intensive care beds.

One scientific advisor warned of a worst case scenario of 500,000 deaths if a complete lockdown was not established, resulting in hysterical headlines in the media

The government response was based on a combination of this advice and panic after the large number of deaths seen in Italy. Emergency hospitals were erected in record time in a number of cities of the UK so the NHS could cope. Letters were sent to recently retired doctors asking to make themselves available to cope with this emergency situation.

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The reality is that these emergency hospitals were never required. Hospital beds were emptied of elderly patients to prepare for the onslaught of thousands of victims suffering from coronavirus. These elderly patients had never been tested for coronavirus but their en masse discharge to nursing and residential homes were likely responsible for the increased mortality as they spread the virus to other residents.

As weeks went by, it was becoming obvious that the NHS was coping very well with many empty beds including those in intensive care. The reality was that hospitals were not admitting patients, and medical and nursing and ancillary staffs in many departments were not under pressure with the exception of those dealing with Covid-19 patients.

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The old saying ‘lies, more lies and statistics’ could never be more true when looking at the high number of UK cases. Does anyone seriously believe that we have been more likely to die in the UK than anywhere else? Common factors that apply to the majority of those succumbing to Covid-19 in every country are the same: old age, other co-morbidities such as heart disease, lung disease, dementia, obesity, diabetes and those with reduced immune systems secondary to being immunosuppressed from cancer, having to take drugs such as steroids for various conditions and pregnancy.

The most important point when comparing figures is to define what you mean by death from coronavirus. In the UK, if you have had a positive test for Covid -19 despite being asymptomatic and are killed in a road traffic accident for example within 28 days of being tested, the death certificate will mention Covid-19 which is then seen as a Covid-19 death.

Anyone who died in a nursing home was put down as a Covid-19 death despite many never having been tested for it.

This is absolutely ludicrous and no peer-reviewed scientific journal would publish such nonsense. The reality is that the vast majority had underlying conditions, which made them susceptible to any viral infection that could exacerbate their underlying condition.

A second wave is inevitable for the reason that lockdown simply delayed the spread of the virus but although the infection rate will go up, it doesn’t follow that the mortality will follow the same curve. The reason is that many of the most vulnerable have already died and those at risk continue to take precautions.

The government’s answer is to invest heavily in vaccines: 131 million to Oxford, 60 million to Livingston, 40 million to Imperial college. 340 million doses of vaccine have been ordered from six different companies but the government refuses to tell us the cost.

Is the intention to vaccinate the whole population including children and young adults? The chances of these dying if they have no other comorbidities are negligible. Vaccination against infections such as measles and meningitis are necessary, as they prevent death and permanent disabilities in the young

Every year in the UK, an average of 155,000 people die from cancer, which is nearly four times the figure that have died from Covid-19. Every new cancer drug has to be licensed, so why is a vaccine that may protect you from a flu like illness or in a few people a visit to hospital and in a very few death given precedence to all the drugs that have to be licensed to treat patients who will definitely die?

Is the intention to keep us in lockdown indefinitely till a vaccine is available, later this year or next?

It is totally irrational to keep large areas of the UK under a national lockdown when there are miniscule numbers of cases in the area. The plot is to get back to normal now. We need to stop this obsession with infections rates but concentrate on mortality rates and be guided by them. All those at serious risk of becoming hospitalised, should be provided by the NHS with proper FFP3 type masks that are used by staff in intensive care units with good evidence that they prevent transmission of the virus.

Patients attending hospital, GP surgeries and living in residential or nursing homes i.e. the most vulnerable should continue to wear masks

The rest of the population should throw away their masks and visors and forget social distancing with the sole purpose of developing herd immunity. This way, after an initial peak, infection rates will rapidly fall and masks can be dispelled with by the vulnerable.

If we go down this route, the virus will have run its course before any vaccine becomes available.

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