Coronavirus: 60pc of population must catch virus to develop ‘herd immunity’

Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the government. Picture: PA Wire

Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser to the government. Picture: PA Wire - Credit: PA

A senior adviser to the government has said that around 60pc of the country’s population needs to contract the coronavirus in order to help prevent it from being transmitted further in the future.

England's chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance told Sky News on Friday morning that the COVID-19 virus could become seasonal, and that the only way to protect people in the future is to develop 'herd immunity'.

He said: 'If you completely locked down absolutely everything, probably for a period of four months or more, then you would supress this virus. All of the evidence from previous epidemics suggests that, if you do that and then you release it, then it all comes back again.

'So the other part of this is to make sure that we don't end up with a sudden peak again in the winter, which is even larger and which causes even more problems.

'We want to supress it, not get rid of it completely - which you can't do anyway - not supress it so we get the second peak, and also allow enough of us who are going to get mild illness, to become immune to this to help with the whole population response, which would help everybody.'

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When asked what percentage of people would need to contract the virus in order to develop this immunity, Mr Vallance replied: 'Probably about 60pc or so.'

He also said that the virus is 'likely to become a seasonal virus' and said that communities becoming immune to it is 'an important part of controlling this longer term'.

As of 9am on Thursday - the latest available figures - there have been 590 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the UK so far, resulting in eight deaths.

As it stands, there are still no cases in Norfolk, though Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge confirmed on Thursday afternoon that a patient had tested positive.

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However, Mr Vallance said on Thursday night that the true number of those who have contracted the disease is likely to be between 5,000 and 10,000.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday that many more families in the UK will 'lose loved ones before their time' as he announced that the government had moved on to the next stage of its response to the pandemic.

Norfolk's director of public health Dr Louise Smith said that it is essential that those who show even the mildest symptoms of COVID-19 stay at home and avoid contact with others.

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