Thousands of scientists and health experts have joined a global movement that warns of “grave concerns”
Nearly 6,000 experts, including dozens from the UK, say the approach is having a devastating impact on physical and mental health and society.
They demand that protection focus on the vulnerable, while healthy people move on with their lives.
The statement prompted warnings from others in the scientific community.
Critics pointed out:
- a more focused approach could make it difficult to fully protect vulnerable people
- The risk of long-term complications from coronavirus means that many others are also at risk
But the movement – known as the Great Barrington Declaration – mirrors some of the warnings in a letter signed by a group of primary care doctors in the UK.
Sixty-six primary care physicians, including TV doctors Dr Phil Hammond and Rosemary Leonard and a number of physicians who have held senior roles at the British Medical Association, wrote to the health secretary, saying there is not enough emphasis on ” non-Covid damages “in the decision-making process.
What is the Great Barrington Declaration?
The movement started in the United States.
And the statement has now been signed by nearly 6,000 scientists and medical experts around the world and 50,000 members of the public.
UK-based experts who signed it include:
- Dr Sunetra Gupta, epidemiologist at the University of Oxford
- Prof. Ellen Townsend, self-harm expert at the University of Nottingham
- Paul McKeigue, University of Edinburgh disease modeler
They say keeping lockdown policies in place until a vaccine is available would cause “irreparable harm, disproportionately disproportionate”.
Health harms cited include:
- lower childhood vaccination rates
- worsening of treatment for heart disease and cancer patients
And they point out that the risk of coronavirus is 1,000 times greater for the elderly and infirm, with children more at risk of the flu than Covid-19.
As immunity builds up in the population, the risk of infection for everyone, including the vulnerable, decreases, they say.
And that would be a much more “compassionate” approach.
The statement recommends a number of measures to protect the vulnerable, including regular checks by nursing home operators, moving as much as possible towards using personnel who have acquired immunity.
Retirees living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered, he says.
And whenever possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside.
Simple hygiene measures, such as washing hands and staying at home in case of illness, should be practiced by everyone.
- low-risk young individuals should be allowed to work normally
- schools and universities should be open to teaching in person
- they could resume sporting and cultural activities and reopen restaurants
What are other experts saying?
While clearly “well intentioned,” the statement has profound ethical, logistical and scientific flaws, says Professor Stephen Griffin, associate professor at the University of Leeds School of Medicine.
The vulnerable come from all walks of life and deserve to be “treated equally”.
And the “long Covid” is said to have left even people with mild infections with problems such as fatigue and joint pain for months.
University of Reading cell biology expert Dr Simon Clarke, meanwhile, says herd immunity is even achievable remains unclear.
“Natural, lasting and protective immunity against the disease would be needed,” he says.
“And we don’t know how effective or lasting people’s post-infection immunity will be.”
Some say the most likely scenario is that immunity is not long-term, but future reinfections will become milder.