Analysis comment

Johnson’s herd-immunity plan would mean letting 90% of UK catch COVID-19 – and a million or more die

‘Herd immunity’ requires 90% or more of the ‘herd’ to have antibodies – and with COVID-19, only way to get antibodies is to have caught disease
A makeshift coronavirus unit in Italy

ITV reported this morning that Boris Johnson and his government plan to drive the UK toward a position of ‘herd immunity’ to the COVID-19 coronavirus currently devastating Italy’s healthcare system and threatening to swamp the UK’s Tory-weakened NHS:

In the article, ITV political editor Robert Peston explains partially:

The key phrase we all need to understand is “herd immunity” – which is what happens to a group of people or animals when they develop sufficient antibodies to be resistant to a disease.

But Peston leaves out a crucial detail – what portion of the ‘herd’ needs to be immune for herd immunity to kick in – and health experts have told the SKWAWKBOX that herd immunity only kicks in once 90% or more of the ‘herd’ have an immune defence against a disease.

With ‘novel’ coronavirus, none of us has any natural immunity – the only way to obtain antibodies, in the absence of a vaccine that is many months away, is to become infected with the virus and survive it.

This means that, if Peston’s report is accurate, Johnson’s aim is to allow the virus to spread until at least 90% of the UK’s population has been infected – which will involve a huge death toll.

When COVID-19 first took hold in the UK, Johnson and the chief medical and scientific officers told the nation that the “reasonable worst case scenario” of the virus was 80% of UK people becoming infected – but they also said that the expected mortality rate was 1%.

Even on those figures, that ‘reasonable worst case’ would mean over half a million UK deaths.

But the 1% figure was well below the 2-3% routinely reported for the epidemic in China – and further still below the 3-5% experienced in the Italian disaster, with far higher rates among vulnerable people.

On even a 2% death rate among a UK population of over 63 million (2011 census), Johnson’s reported plan for 90% of the population to catch the virus means around 57 million people becoming infected – and more than 1.1 million people dying.

If the UK experiences a rate comparable to that of Italy, the situation is much worse.

Johnson’s ‘herd immunity’ plan appears to mean a decision by the Tory government to stand back while – in the most optimistic scenario – hundreds of thousands of our people die.

To Johnson, Cummings and their fellow fans of eugenics, that might just mean ‘the herd’. But to you and me, that’s our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues – if we’re lucky enough to survive their plan ourselves.

The people the government says its first duty is to protect – and under that kind of a government, there is no reason at all for such optimism.

Postscript: Johnson’s refusal this afternoon to close schools, when Ireland will do so from tomorrow, is entirely in line with his ‘plan’.

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  1. its a miserable policy that only a Tory of Johnson’s ilk would dare propose. He calls it ‘taking one hit on the chin’ – and then you’re done. No expensive testing let alone treatment, the dead well buried and notoriously uncomplaining there is no doubt this obnoxious man will be boasting at the next election about how he saved the World by taking a tough line with the Over 70’s who, after all, had had a good innings bla bla. (IF the World is saved and IF there is another election).

  2. We suspected that the Torys had a plan its extinction.I hope that enough resistance is left in the people of Britain to fight back against these vile Tory scum?

  3. Johnson, Cummings and the string pullers are revealing their true nature. What a tragedy that the ” moderates, centrists” Blairites, Labour first, Starmer, Thornberry et al all have played a part in these hideous people having the levers of power.

    1. Don’t forget the right-wing Lexiteers’ guilt – helping to hand Tories the high ground on a plate by parroting the Sun/Mail/Express/Torygraph and Johnson script.

      1. Yeah, because your monumental idiocy and incompetence got YOU a labour mp in YOUR constituency; so that makes you not only blameless, but entirely correct – doesn’t it?

        What an imbecile. I mean, I often wonder what the eugenecists would make of you. To be honest, your case garners some sympathy for the project.

        Why don’t you self-isolate for an eternity. You won’t be missed as you’re neither use nor fucking ornament.

      2. Still into impotent ranting as a political pose, Toffer?

        Your irrelevance is impressive.

      3. Yes, the tiny group of myopic, in the intellectual sense, self-serving left wingers who decided to go against the majority of members and split the Labour Party, are just as, if not more culpable than the right wingers who were determined to keep Corbyn from becoming our next PM.

        They, with their mouthpieces on social media, have helped to serve up the most right wing government we have had in decades. Still, by siding with the Tories, they achieved their self inflicted aim of the disaster that is Brexit on the country, so what do they care?

      4. Yes indeedy. Let’s face it – anyone persuaded to adopt the MailSun/Lexit line re. the EU (and two thirds of the nation) was always going to vote Tory as the real deal. Why would they vote for rationality if they were convinced of such crap?

        The only hope that Labour had was in being an opposition – both on Brexit and on the ‘antisemitism’ scam. That would have been difficult enough to achieve against the MailSun barrage – but faux left-wingery of the Toytown variety was another (if minor) factor working against it.

        I have to laugh at the Toffer’s revealing confirmation of the looking-glass idiocy :

        ” your monumental idiocy and incompetence got YOU a labour mp in YOUR constituency;”

        Translation – “electing a Labour MP is ‘monumental idiocy’ when you could elect a Tory Brexiteer”

        Out of the mouths of babes and fuckwits ….

  4. There seems to be a transatlantic competition running for who can come up with the most inadequate response to this virus – at the moment Johnson’s (or should that be Cummings’) “herd immunity” comments have him in poll position. Just for the record I have long term lung damage and a compromised immune system from the cancer that nearly killed me at the back end of 2018 and the subsequent treatment thereof.

    1. Sorry to hear that. Your age may the crucial factor that determines whether if you catch it you get treatment or not. In triage the younger man with a family and a job gets preference over the pensioners, even if their chances of survival are equal. It’s hard to complain about that BUT we can complain that if this Government had maintained the NHS a huge death toll could have been avoided. Now it can’t be and Johnson is pretending his policy is one of choice but in reality he has no option. But it’s difficult to complain when you are fighting for breath – a horrible end when there is nothing to help. It’s like being water boarded to death and it can take hours. I guess our widows and children will know who is responsible and we can at least make it crystal clear to them WHO KILLED GRANDAD!

    2. I have similar problem after having a liver transplant exactly 4 yrs ago. I am 70 yrs old and have to take anti-rejection medication for the rest of my life which compromises my immune system. If I catch corona virus It will be my death warrant. Common flu and cold are already a threat to my life. I am not a member of a ‘herd’ or a member of the badger population, I am a human-being FFS. The cruel Tories will use this corona virus to cull the sick and the old if the public let them.

  5. Ps I and my family members including my wife and 3grandchildren have been fighting this virus for over a week now .My son and daughter in law have fought off the virus.Unfortunately the small community we
    live in has been hit badly.We do not pannick and life goes on.The reports from Squawkbox motivate to make sure that there will be a day of reckoning with the establishment Tory elite soon.My flights back from Phnom Penh are in may via Muscat,hopfully things can get better soon.Solidarity comrades.

  6. Conspiracy or cock-up from the Oxbridge Old Etonian?

    Good luck Joseph!

  7. I’m surprised it’s took so long for people to click that this is all part of their grandiose scheme.

    I won’t be surprised or shocked to read in a year-or-so’s time that those with underlying medical complaints that DO survive coronavirus and are on sickness benefits will no doubt be asked at their next Work Capability Assessment (WCA) just how they managed to survive the bug and it will go against their claim.

    Because the sick & disabled are in reality all fucking supermen who are blagging the system.

    Got COPD? So what?! So did Dean Martin and he was making films with it.

    No legs? So what!? Nor did Douglas Bader and he was a spitfire pilot.

    Blind? Yeah, and? So’s Stevie Wonder!

    Just wait ‘n’ see…

  8. The callous results of having a eugenicist behind the Boris throne. The ultimate divide-&-conquer policy, the dead and the survivors, fighting over the crumbs of the NHS ICU beds.
    Maybe Putin nuking London as an-“anti-viral” policy would be a blessing. Jesus’ wept!

  9. Bet those pensioners that selfishly voted Tory didn’t realise they were volunteering for a far right eugenics experiment with them as the guinea pigs.
    Bet they are foaming at the mouth over their Daily Bile.

  10. Yep.

    If only there had been an opposition party that had kept to their promise of respecting the referendum result; instead of a few selfish twats undemocratically steamrollering through a 2nd referendum with remain option as policy, thereby putting millions of people off voting for them – just as predicted…

    That said, I’m not sure Labour’d handle this situation much better with their own autocratic cretins (starmer) and lickspittles (bradshaw, for example) infesting it.

    1. Such insight from two hands searching for their arse! The Tory volunteer support wing pontificates with lines culled from the Sun and Mail.

      If dim ranting bullshit was a vaccine, we’d all be protected!

      1. What’s up dicky?

        Was I unkind to dear starmer? The gobshite what gifted the toerags the keys to number ten?


      2. I was going to say ‘Don’t be stupid’ – but that’s a bit like expecting Coronovirus to just disappear. And there’s no vaccine for dim ranting, either.

        I doubt you’ll stop working for the Tories, having made it your major pastime – despite the bullshit rhetoric, Toffer.

      3. WT absolute FUCK is ‘toffer’ meant to be, dicky?

        That something you picked up from the bullingdon club, gobshite?

        ‘toffer’ , indeed. Christ on a crutch.

      4. Toffer – I don’t particularly mind you toffing yourself off by just pointlessly shouting into the void – but lets not pretend that just shouting at the Tory government (and most of the rest of humanity) has any effect, or that anything useful can be gleaned from this self-indulgence.

        There are real issues around this cuurent shambles – but you seem to have nothing to contribute to anything resembling debate.

      5. I’m embarrassed to admit I only just got the ‘toffer’ thing myself – I should have fpotted it right away 🙂

  11. A better headline might be: Boris to Nation — DROP DEAD! (like the famous New York Post headline).
    I’m convinced that the apparent incompetence is designed to mask a serious policy of letting older people die off, so they can spend less on their NHS treatment.

    1. It’s the only possible thing they can do because they can’t repair the NHS in a matter of days. The surge will come and it will be like a First World War Field Station with a stressed young doctor crossing off person after person as he assess who lives and who dies.

  12. Where is Jon Ashworth ? Why isn’t the Labour Shadow Health team applying extreme pressure on the gov to go into lockdown ????

    Where is Labours voice ????

    I’ve told my family to not wait for this incompetent gov to ride to save us, self isolate now, take the grandkids out of school and look after our elders with health conditions.

  13. Would YOU put your faith in ashworth?

    I can hear him now: ”It’s WORSE than that – it’s a DISASTER”

    Cringey, whiny-voiced, useless bleeder – another reason the toerags won.

      1. Yeah, cos it was ME speaking to a toerag I thought was my friend what recorded my squealing like a stuck pig and putting it out to the general public to see what a contemptuous little shite I am.

        But YOU got a labour MP in YOUR constituency so whatever ashworth did, it doesn’t matter, does it?


    1. I reckon that closing schools is a genuinely difficult decision – it has other negative consequences, so has to be seriously analysed.

      But limiting social/recreational gatherings seems an obvious move. I still remain gob-smacked that the Liverpool-Madrid match went ahead, given what was known about Madrid.

  14. Here are some extracts from an article about the ‘choices’ the Italian health service are now being forced to make.

    Those who are too old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of “life-years” left even if they should survive, will be left to die.

    In addition to age, doctors and nurses are also advised to take a patient’s overall state of health into account: ……
    ………because patients in a worse state of overall health could require a greater share of scarce resources to survive: “What might be a relatively short treatment course in healthier people could be longer and more resource-consuming in the case of older or more fragile patients.”
    “These guidelines apply even to patients who require intensive care for reasons other than the coronavirus, because they too make demands on the same scarce medical resources.

    We are said to be 3 to 4 weeks behind Italy, what is our government doing?

    1. It’s battle field triage; you can assess ‘value’ by age and personal position. Of course the 40 year old in otherwise reasonable health who has a family that he supports is going to win the bed that’s going in the acute ward over the 75 year old with heart failure. That’s reasonable and humane. The issue is who the fuck left our hospitals unable to cope? Why isn’t their a bed for both? Well, it’s not because we are a desperately impoverished state. Who for 10 years were told DO SOMETHING. But didn’t. It doesn’t matter whether they couldn’t be arsed, couldn’t work out the application forms or simply decided to spend the money on their tight tribe and of course themselves, the risk was ignored. Will they suffer the consequences of their folly?

      1. Paul – My comment was meant to highlight what happens when a country’s health service is overwhelmed it was definitely not intended as a criticism of the decisions that the medical staff have been forced into taking by the situation on the ground. It looks like we will be in the same boat soon.

        It was also intended to express my frustration at our governments apparent inaction over taking any steps to slow down the spread of this virus.

      2. If I wasn’t so old and technologically ignorant I’d post a piece from an old Yes Minister episode. In the circumstances it’s hilarious. The best I can do is tell you it’s on YouTube and is referenced As political geeks know every episode of the series you have to assume a Johnson/Cummings are seriously taking the piss with the current ‘strategy’.


        This King’s Fund link puts the number of NHS beds at 142,000.

        Give or take, a conservative 1% infection rate in the UK would affect around 650,000.

        Staying with this brutal mathematics the next question to consider would be whether the UK has sufficient facilities to deal with the next, inevitable, stage of such choices?

      4. That’s a somewhat optimistic anticipation Paul given the sanguine (couldn’t give a shit) recorded attitude of the Powers That Be (PTB).

        Following the recent comment from a self defined journalist from the Torygraph:

        It would seem reasonable to anticipate an expectation on the part of our feudal overlords that, particularly with their own majority older demographic voter base, people would be enthusiasticly queuing around the block at specialist culling centres volunteering and demanding their right to be culled rather than wasting expensive capital intensive machinery assets requiring costly fossil fuel.

        As I’ve observed more than once recently, Britain is set to dominate the Darwin Awards for the forseeable future.

    2. Thanks for the link Steve – interesting mostly for reminding me of ventilation being the primary treatment.
      I’m going to service the Hookah surface-feed dive compressor tomorrow in case the urge to cough I’ve had today turns into something.
      Haven’t had a cough since I gave up smoking around 11 years ago and I’ve never had this vaguely odd feeling in the chest before – not tightness exactly but can’t describe it – hardly more than feeling the presence of air in the lungs as opposed to being unaware of it.
      I’ll know soon enough I expect.
      Some mould’s grown in the boat over the winter and that might be it – or the gales disturbing the blue-green algae in the dock basin ten feet off my stern, or the ducks, geese, swans, arctic terns & garbage gulls crapping on it.
      This is not the dream I ordered… 🙂

      Anyone else wonder if the gulls at the tip might pick it up from hospital waste and spread it or mutate it?
      I won’t be bothering a doctor or a hospital whatever this turns out to be – I can adjust the compressor’s pressure to inflate my lungs at a normal breathing rate and ventilate myself – with a bare hose end in the teeth if necessary.
      I keep emergency dry stores to last at least a month on board, got solar panels, inverter & generator if the mains fails, and full water tanks – so I don’t need to go anywhere or pass whatever this is on to anyone.

      Have any COVID-19 patients described the experience 1st person in real time from the beginning to the end yet I wonder? Somebody should, so if I’ve been ‘elected’ I’ll have a go.

      If all this makes me seem a hypochondriac I’m far from it – I’ve had five GP’s my whole life and gone for periods of years without one. Haven’t even met the latest and he or she took over the practice around the time I left that town 7 years ago.

      1. Good luck, David. I can understand your concern. Actually, we all become a bit (and justifiably) hypochondriac in circumstances like this.

        The odds are that it is something else, and perhaps remember that even amongst we of the Old Farts brigade, the survival odds are high (80-90%+).

      2. What is the breathing equipment you have exactly? It sounds interesting. I’m in my 70’s with no less than the first six risk boxes ticked (heart failure, COPD, Cancer, immunodeficiency etc). I have no chance of getting breathing assistance via the NHS. What does it cost, is it available – and does it work?!

      3. Paul – Just focus on survival rates rather than mortality rates. I can play snap with you on a number of risk factors 🙂

      4. RH, I’m so concerned I didn’t even check over the compressor today – I had some balls needed scratching.

        Paul, sorry but I can’t recommend anyone else use a redneck diy ventilator.
        Compressors are cheap and readily available but they’re so loud after an hour you’d write your will and switch it off.
        Also oil or the moisture build up in air receivers breathed in at pressure can damage the lungs. I wouldn’t try it myself without a water separator and a charcoal filter and only then as a last resort.

      5. I see! Thanks for answering. I’ll drop a line to that nice Mr Hancock, I’m sure he’ll be happy to help. I read China has thousands of brand new ventilators on offer at a discount because they overproduced them in their socialist enthusiasm. Surely the Government will gratefully take up the offer?

  15. Chelsea Manning Recovering After Attempting Suicide While Jailed in ‘Coercive Measure Amounting to Torture’

    American whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s legal team revealed late Wednesday that she is recovering in the hospital after attempting to take her own life while jailed for the vast majority of the past year in what one United Nations expert has denounced as “an open-ended, progressively severe coercive measure amounting to torture.”

    1. A federal judge has ordered that Chelsea Manning be released from jail in Virginia.

      The former US army analyst who leaked hundreds of thousands of documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks in 2010 had been held since May last year, when she was taken back into custody for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating the pro-transparency organisation.

      Ordering Manning’s release, Judge Anthony J Trenga wrote: “The court finds Ms Manning’s appearance before the grand jury is no longer needed, in light of which her detention no longer serves any coercive purpose.”

  16. Hmmm… aren’t the people that are going to die, the very people that Boris and his pseudo-Himmler IDS are already trying to get rid of. I’ve got an inoculation for Mr Boriski — a syringe-full of Coronavirus. Sieg Heil!

  17. A major problem (before we get to the issue of the state of the health service) is the lack of sound, authoritative advice that steers a course between blind panic and the laissez-faire of the government.

    In this situation of government uselessness, I reckon it’s got to be down to individuals to be ahead of the curve.

    … and, wading through advice and natter, it’s quite simple (if no cure).

    1. If vulnerable – make sure you have the ‘flu vaccination – not because it affects the Corona virus, but because it can prevent an additional threat that will weaken you.

    2. Limit social contact, and keep the brain in gear. That Liverpool match was a classic case of where not to be.

    3. Be rigorous about hand (and other) hygeine, and remember that soap is more effective than hand-wash (which is a practical substitute in other circumstances).

    The rationale of ‘behavioural science’ as a determinant of government action (i.e the idea of public boredom with constraint) is partial science at best, and it is clear that there should already be action in place to limit gathering of people. Fortunately, I think a lot are taking action without prompting from the Spivs..

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