A deliberate strategy of attempting to raise the level of population immunity by allowing or encouraging people at lower risk of hospitalisation or death to become infected is not only unlikely to achieve the desired objective of population immunity (often called “herd immunity”), but risks a significant amount of avoidable death and illness, without protecting the economy.
Evidence suggests that the duration of immunity achieved could be less than a year. In addition, guaranteed shielding of vulnerable groups is infeasible and there would be substantial mortality and morbidity even among the ‘non-vulnerable’. It would also increase health and social inequalities, with the most disadvantaged groups, particularly the elderly, deprived and the ethnic minority groups, being disproportionately impacted. Treatment for COVID-19 is improving all the time. Delaying as many people as possible becoming infected with coronavirus will save lives and ill-health as new treatments become available. Other countries have shown that the infection rates can be suppressed without highly damaging ‘lockdowns’ by using established infection control procedures, including excellent contact tracing followed by supported isolation.