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Coronavirus could be with us "forever" if survivors can be re-infected, scientists warn


Coronavirus could be with us "forever" if people can be re-infected, a British scientist has warned.

Professor Graeme Ackland, a researcher at the University of Edinburgh, warned that it could be "terrible" if survivors are not protected from the disease in the future.

The truth about Covid-19 immunity remains a mystery, as the pathogen known as SARS-CoV-2 has only been known to science for less than a year.

However, leading experts believe that the disease would be milder if a survivor were re-infected as they would likely have some level of protection. Therefore, hospitalizations and deaths would theoretically not reach catastrophic levels.

Top scientists, including government advisers, have already said that the virus, like other similar coronavirus-like infections and seasonal illnesses, will circulate for decades.

Scientists don't yet know how long a person will be immune to the coronavirus. Several studies have shown that antibodies – proteins made by the immune system to fight off future disease – decrease after just a few months.

When immunity is short-lived, it gives hope that herd immunity will build up in the population – a natural way to eradicate the virus. However, it does not preclude people from being better protected if they become infected again and have a much milder form of the disease.

However, unless survivors are protected from a major attack of Covid a second time, it suggests lockdowns are needed to save as many lives as possible until experts find a vaccine.

A study lead author Professor Ackland found that tight lockdowns are unlikely to decrease and even increase deaths in the long run.

Tight lockdowns – especially those restricting youth activities – could prolong the pandemic and cause hundreds of thousands of excessive deaths over the next two years.

The alternative – shielding only the elderly and vulnerable and allowing young people to return to normal – can reduce the impact. However, that strategy would rely on herd immunity, which has been proven not to be achievable, Professor Ackland admitted.

Ministers were under heavy pressure last night to reconsider the fight against the disease after the study cast new doubts about Covid's limitations.

The study, co-funded by an arm of the government, was made public when a growing number of top scientists signed a statement calling for life to return to normal for everyone but the elderly and vulnerable. By this morning, more than 12,000 doctors and medical experts had approved the Great Barrington Declaration, which supports herd immunity.

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty

Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (right) said in April: "This disease is not going to be eradicated, it is not going to go away." On at least three occasions, Sir Patrick Vallance, England's leading scientific advisor (left), said the goal was "to build up some level of herd immunity". But has since deeply denied that herd immunity was the target for Britain

Herd immunity has resurfaced on scientists' radar as “lockdown fatigue” rises among the general public and ministers battle harmful restrictions.

However, the strategy has stalled in that it cannot be said with certainty that people who have had Covid-19 will in fact remain immune for a considerable period of time.

Research has shown that antibodies decrease three or four months after infection. And some people may not develop antibodies at all, so the real number of cases will always be a mystery.

WHAT IS HERD IMMUNITY AND WHICH COUNTRIES ARE TRACKING IT?

Herd immunity is a situation in which a population of people is protected from disease because so many of them are unaffected – because they have already had it or have been vaccinated – that it cannot spread.

In order to cause an outbreak, a disease-causing bacteria or virus must constantly have potential victims who are not immune to it.

Immunity is when your body knows exactly how to fight off a certain type of infection because it has encountered it before, either from the disease in the past or from a vaccine.

When a virus or bacterium enters the body, the immune system creates substances called antibodies that are designed to destroy a specific type of insect.

Once these are created, some of them stay in the body and the body also remembers how to recreate them. In addition to T cells, antibodies offer long-term protection or immunity against a disease.

If no one is immune to a disease – as was the case when the coronavirus outbreak began – it can spread like wildfire.

However, if, for example, half of the people have developed immunity – from a previous infection or a vaccine – then there are only half as many people to whom the disease can spread.

As more and more people become immune, it becomes more and more difficult for the beetle to spread until its victim pool becomes so small that it can no longer spread at all.

The herd immunity threshold is different for different diseases, depending on how contagious they are. With measles, around 95 percent of people must be vaccinated against the spread.

For polio, which is less contagious, the threshold is around 80 to 85 percent, according to the Oxford Vaccine Group.

WHICH COUNTRIES TRACK THE IMMUNITY OF THE HERD?

Herd immunity is seen as a controversial way to overcome the pandemic as it sends the message to encourage the spread of the virus rather than contain it.

When British government scientists discussed it in the early days of the pandemic, it was criticized and swept under the rug.

Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance said at a March 12 press conference to inform the public about the impending Covid-19 crisis, “Our goal is not to stop everyone from getting it, you cannot. And it is undesirable because you want to maintain some immunity in the population. We need immunity to protect ourselves from it in the future. & # 39;

Sir Patrick has since apologized for the comments, saying he did not mean that this was the government's plan.

In a Channel 4 documentary aired in June, Italy's deputy health minister claimed Boris Johnson told Italy he wanted to follow up on her.

The Cabinet Office denied the allegations made in the documentation, saying, "The government has made it very clear that herd immunity has never been our policy or our goal."

Unlike most European countries, Sweden has never imposed a lockdown and has opened schools for children under 16, cafes, bars, restaurants and most shops. Masks were recommended only for medical personnel.

Sweden only introduced a handful of restrictions, including banning mass gatherings and encouraging people to work and study from home.

Dr. Anders Tegnell, who led the nation through the pandemic without asking for a lockdown, claimed on July 21 that Sweden's strategy to slow the epidemic, which has been widely questioned abroad, is working.

Dr. Tegnell, who previously said the world has gone mad from coronavirus lockdowns, said a rapid slowdown in the spread of the virus shows very much that Sweden has achieved relatively widespread immunity.

"The epidemic is now slowing down, just as I believe few of us would have believed a week or so ago," he said.

"It's really another sign that the Swedish strategy is working."

At the time, the death toll in Sweden was 5,646, which is now 5,892 almost three months later. Compared to population size, it has far surpassed that of its Nordic neighbors.

Covid-19 has only been around since late 2019, so it has been impossible to tell if people can catch the coronavirus twice.

However, this has been the case with a small number of people, as reports from the past few weeks have shown.

In August, two European Covid-19 survivors were reportedly re-infected after recovering from the disease. A Dutch patient who was old and had a weakened immune system and a Belgian woman who had only mild symptoms tested positive twice, local broadcasters claim.

What followed was a landmark report from a Hong Kong man who was re-infected four and a half months after his initial crackdown. The genetic analysis revealed that the 33-year-old's second attack of illness, which he got while traveling to Europe, was caused by another strain of the virus.

Professor Ackland, an expert on computer simulations, said it was "possible" for people to get the virus more than once, as is the case with other coronaviruses like the common cold.

On BBC Radio 4 Today, he said this morning, “It's not my expertise as I understand it, it's a very small number of cases. If it is true that people are constantly being re-infected, then the situation is just terrible because this thing will essentially be with us forever. & # 39;

Other leading scientists have made the same doomsday predictions, including Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty, who said in April, “This disease is not going to be eradicated, it is not going to go away.

"So we have to accept that we are working with a disease that we will face worldwide for the foreseeable future."

Professor Sir John Bell, an immunologist at Oxford University, told MPs in July, "The reality is this pathogen is here forever, it's not going anywhere," he told MPs.

“Look at how much trouble they struggled to get rid of polio, for example. This eradication program has been going on for 15 years and they are still not there.

"So this will come and go, and we will have winters where we get a lot of this virus back into action."

Even if re-infection is possible, that doesn't necessarily mean that the coronavirus is just as destructive and claiming as many lives as it was in the first wave.

Commenting on the re-infection case in Hong Kong, Paul Hunter, Professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, said, “It is very likely that, due to some extent, subsequent infections will not cause as serious illnesses as the first episode, remaining immunity may not be enough to stop the infection, but it may be enough to reduce your risk of developing serious illness. "

Given the impact the lockdown has had, many scholars have argued that a continuation is not possible and a new approach will be needed to limit the devastating effects on people's livelihoods and economies.

Research released Wednesday by the University of Edinburgh shows that tight lockdowns – especially those that restrict young people's activities – are unlikely to reduce and even increase deaths in the long run.

Various lockdown scenarios were examined and found that, while protecting hospitals, they could also prolong the pandemic and prevent herd immunity from building up.

It suggests that the strict lockdown imposed by Boris Johnson in March successfully reduced peak demand for intensive care beds, but also prolonged the Covid-19 pandemic.

The scientists concluded that the coronavirus requires a different strategy than a flu epidemic.

The focus should be on shielding the elderly and the vulnerable, which has been raised by a number of other teams, including the Government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE).

The strategy calls for ministers to encourage those most at risk from coronavirus, including those with underlying health conditions, to stay home and shield. It would enable young and healthy Britons to continue enjoying freedoms such as going to restaurants and pubs.

Edinburgh University researchers said 97 percent of deaths from Covid-19 occur in those over 65, compared with just 5 percent during the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic.

And the study found that social distancing was more effective at reducing deaths when it was only employed in those over 70 than when it was practiced by the entire population.

But this approach also has its flaws. Segregating society by age and risk of Covid-19 could have a huge impact on the mental health of the elderly and is ethically questionable. Experts also argue that teenagers can still suffer from long covid.

On the BBC Radio 4 Today program this morning, Professor Ackland was asked if his study was promoting herd immunity – a controversial approach – to rid society of the coronavirus.

He said, "You can feel that if you allow the virus to go wild by doing nothing and get all deaths out of the way in a short and terrible time, it is a good thing."

NO 10 rejects calls to spread COVID-19 among the young and healthy

Number 10 insisted yesterday that it would not be affected by the increasing calls from scientists to stop using lockdowns and let the coronavirus spread among young and healthy people.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said the call on the UK to seek herd immunity to Covid-19 was not being heeded by policy makers.

It came after a petition called the Great Barrington Declaration was published this week calling for young people to be able to return to normal while the elderly and most vulnerable are given "targeted protection".

The open letter, written by experts from Oxford, Harvard and Stanford Universities, has since been signed by more than 12,000 scholars and medical professionals and 100,000 members of the public.

But Mr Johnson's spokesman said today that there is no evidence that it is possible to protect only vulnerable people and that herd immunity would never develop.

Top scientists have also despised the plan, claiming it was based on unproven science and important details. An Oxford University professor today described the statement as "a libertarian agenda wrapped up as science" and a "manifesto for selfishness".

But he emphasized, “I don't think it's a scientist's job to say whether this is the right policy. It's our job to tell you what will happen if you follow a certain policy. & # 39;

Herd immunity is when a high percentage of individuals are immune to the disease, either through vaccination or because they have had the disease and are building an immune response to it.

People who don't have immunity are protected because those who act as a buffer between them and an infected person.

So far, it has been speculated that 60 to 70 percent of the population suffer from Covid-19 or would have to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity status.

But that would be devastating and cause millions of deaths, which is why No10 quickly distanced itself from the controversial strategy in March after it was muttered that this was the target for Britain.

On at least three occasions, Sir Patrick Vallance, England's leading scientific advisor, said the goal was "to build some level of herd immunity". But has since deeply denied that herd immunity was the target for Britain.

However, Professor Ackland said, "Unless a vaccine magically appears and is rolled out across the population over the next six months, the society shutdown is unlikely to reduce the total number of deaths."

The study was based on Professor Neil Ferguson's model – the model that triggered the national lockdown in March because it predicted a worst-case scenario with 250,000 deaths if the virus were to spread naturally.

"We wanted to test what the modeling's long-term predictions look like and see if they matched actual events," Professor Ackland told the Today program, revealing that the analysis supported key findings in Professor Ferguson's report.

"It has also been shown that whatever you do about interventions, the ultimate death rate will be in the hundreds of thousands," said Professor Ackland.

“When I say Finale, I mean probably two years. So it looks like we've had maybe 60,000 (excess) deaths so far. The best scenarios in the model look about four times this. & # 39;

Professor Ackland's sharp comments suggest that more than 240,000 people could die in two years.

The University of Edinburgh study looked at various lockdown-style scenarios and found that while lockdown can protect hospitals, it can also prolong the pandemic and prevent herd immunity from building up. Pictured: the green and purple lines indicate the number of deaths that could occur during a second wave, while the black line indicates that deaths would have skyrocketed during the first wave but stayed low for the rest of the year would, if the country had not entered curfew

The University of Edinburgh study looked at various lockdown-style scenarios and found that while lockdown can protect hospitals, it can also prolong the pandemic and prevent herd immunity from building up. Pictured: the green and purple lines indicate the number of deaths that could occur during a second wave, while the black line indicates that deaths would have skyrocketed during the first wave but stayed low for the rest of the year would, if the country had not entered curfew

But the strategy would have put more strain on the NHS intensive care units than the lockdown. Pictured: Lila shows how intensive care demand would have increased per 100,000 if prevention strategies weren't in place. The other rows represent the ICU load when other measures have been taken, including site closures, case isolation, household quarantine, and social distancing beyond the age of 70

But the strategy would have put more strain on the NHS intensive care units than the lockdown. Pictured: Lila shows how intensive care demand would have increased per 100,000 if prevention strategies weren't in place. The other rows represent the ICU load when other measures have been taken, including site closures, case isolation, household quarantine, and social distancing beyond the age of 70

What cases and deaths would look like if the UK only isolated entire households of Covid-19 positive people and banned people over the age of 70. The graphs on the left show how younger people could have picked up the virus much more easily and built up some herd immunity. According to the researchers, it would also cause fewer deaths, as shown on the right

What cases and deaths would look like if the UK only isolated entire households of Covid-19 positive people and banned people over the age of 70. The graphs on the left show how younger people could have picked up the virus much more easily and built up some herd immunity. According to the researchers, it would also cause fewer deaths, as shown on the right

Ministers were under heavy pressure to reconsider last night after experts expressed new doubts about Covid's restrictions. Pictured: Boris Johnson

Ministers were under heavy pressure to reconsider last night after experts expressed new doubts about Covid's restrictions. Pictured: Boris Johnson

SAY SAYS BRITAIN COULD AVOID LOCKDOWNS by protecting the Elders

Britain could avoid another full lockdown by cocooning the elderly, say scientists advising the government.

The strategy calls for ministers to encourage those most at risk from coronavirus, including those with underlying health conditions, to stay home and screen.

This would allow young and healthy Britons to continue enjoying freedoms like going to restaurants and pubs – which would also prop up the volatile economy.

Documents released today by the Government's Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) show that experts advising number 10 are pondering the tactics.

Scientists admit the move would be ethically questionable, but say that there are no easy options when trying to save lives and keep the economy alive.

The strategy would work by first identifying each “high risk person” using an algorithm that takes age, ethnicity and health into account.

Then a relative or caregiver of the high-risk person names himself / herself their "shielder". This person is trusted to avoid places where they could ingest the coronavirus as much as possible, be it a hospital, a large indoor gathering, or a city with a high rate of infection.

A team at Edinburgh University, led by Mark Woolhouse, professor of, proposed the idea SAGE, which will present the results to the government on August 4th for information on public health policy. It is known as "segmentation and protection".

The benefits are that entire society does not need to be locked up when cases arise, so those who are healthy and of working age can continue to contribute to the economy, while those at high risk don't have to lock themselves up in complete isolation.

However, it is almost entirely a matter of keeping the Shielder free from infection.

And it would be ethically difficult to tell any part of society to continue shielding and allowing others to return to normal after the lockdown had so drastically affected everyone's lives.

The idea of ​​age-dependent Covid-19 rules was further promoted in the 47th and 48th SAGE sessions on July 16 and 23, respectively.

Scientists said it was "merit" to make different rules based on age, but gave no examples.

The most vulnerable in society and their closest friends or family members would most likely face stricter guidelines than those who are young and healthy.

SAGE acknowledged that given that the homes are made up of parents, teenagers, children and the elderly, most families in England would need to continue to be careful to support those at higher risk in their home anyway.

The computer simulation expert said of his work, “Lockdowns essentially only postpone these deaths and prevent immunity from building … in some cases, they lead to more deaths in the long run.

“The way out of an epidemic is herd immunity. If enough people are infected in the population, the virus cannot spread.

"We need to focus on protecting the elderly who will be affected by coronavirus, not people who don't."

The study also found that closing schools leads to more deaths from Covid-19 than they stay open.

This is because it prevents herd immunity from building up in healthy and young people who are at low risk of dying from the disease.

The virus would rebound as soon as measures to close schools are lifted, infecting vulnerable populations and causing "more deaths but later".

The study, co-funded by UK Research and Innovation, an arm of the government and published in the British Medical Journal, was published when a growing number of leading scientists signed a declaration calling for life to go back to normal, all except for the elderly and vulnerable.

By last night, more than 9,000 doctors and medical experts had approved the Great Barrington Declaration, which supports herd immunity.

Paul McKeigue, Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics in Edinburgh, said the paper's conclusion was in line with the general theme of "focused protection" advocated in the Great Barrington Declaration.

He added, "If a vaccine does not become available, the only deaths that lockdowns will prevent are the additional deaths resulting from the predicted health care overload."

But Downing Street rejected the Great Barrington Declaration's call for a change in Covid strategy on Wednesday.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: “We have considered the full range of scientific opinions over the course of this pandemic and will continue to do so.

'However, it is not possible to rely on an unproven assumption that if people at lower risk become infected with the virus, they could avoid transmitting it later to those who are at higher risk and therefore greater Have a chance of ending up in the hospital or worse, in an intensive care unit. "

The spokesman acknowledged lockdown measures have health implications, but added, "It is also worth highlighting that another important consideration has been the need to protect the NHS so it can continue to provide critical care and treatment for diseases such as cancer."

There are growing questions about the effectiveness of lockdown-style restrictions as numbers show that new rules have failed to contain the coronavirus in almost every local area they have lived in for the past two months.

Nicola Sturgeon announced extensive restrictions on Wednesday. Die Pubs und Restaurants in Glasgow, Edinburgh und der zentrale Gürtel waren ab morgen Abend für 16 Tage geschlossen.

Boris Johnson ist gequält darüber, ob ähnliche Maßnahmen zur Eindämmung des Coronavirus in Nordengland eingeführt werden sollen, wo die Fälle am weitesten verbreitet sind.

Die Regierungspolitik konzentriert sich auf die Reduzierung von Covid-19-Fällen in allen Altersgruppen durch Maßnahmen wie Ausgangssperren in der Kneipe und die „Sechserregel“.

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