Long lockout could weaken immune system and make people more vulnerable to dangerous viruses, warns Oxford epidemiologist
- Sunetra Gupta said locking could make people more vulnerable to illness
- An Oxford professor’s team argued that the coronavirus arrived in the UK in December
- Unparalleled advice from Imperial College professor Neil Ferguson of Lockdown
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An Oxford epidemiologist has warned that long lockouts could weaken the immune system and leave people vulnerable to future pandemics.
Professor Sunetra Gupta said that intense social distancing can leave people unexposed to germs and fail to develop defenses against new viruses.
She added that “if we get back to the point where we have no exposure,” society would be “like bunches of trees waiting to be burned.”
Professor Gupta’s team has conducted research suggesting that the coronavirus arrived in the UK in December and caused significant “collective immunity”.
The results of his modeling implied that the initiation of a national lock-out three months later was either too late or unnecessary.
He rivaled advice from Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, whose projections of 500,000 deaths prompted Boris Johnson to impose a lockdown.
Professor Ferguson, who was sacked from his position on SAGE after flouting the lockout rules, later told MEPs that Sweden had achieved roughly the same removal of the British-type coronavirus without lockdown.
Britain has so far recorded 43,514 deaths associated with the coronavirus.
Professor Sunetra Gupta said that intense social distancing could leave people unexposed to germs and not develop defenses against new viruses
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Professor Gupta added that “if we get back to the point where we have no exposure”, society would be “like bunches of trees waiting to be burned” (stock)
Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Professor Gupta argued that international travel helps strengthen defenses against new and emerging viruses.
“This is a warning not to assume that the situation where we are not regularly attacked by pathogens puts us in a better position,” she said.
“If we come back to the point where we have no exposure, where we keep everything away and go back to a state of existing communities as relatively isolated, we are like bunches of trees waiting to be burned.
“The type of immunity that protects you from very serious symptoms and death can be acquired by exposure to related pathogens rather than the virus itself.”
Professor Gupta said: “The conditions for the spread of a virus have been improved by current practices of global mixing with travel around the world.
Professor Gupta’s model competed with the advice of Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, whose projections of 500,000 deaths prompted Boris Johnson to impose a lockdown
Boris Johnson (pictured with Rishi Sunak, June 26) ordered a national lockdown on March 23
“But what has also been strengthened is the level of cross-protection we get from exposure to different bugs.
“Overall, we are in a better position with all of these international trips. Thus, the conditions under which a pathogen could kill many people have been reduced. “
She also said that living in a state “largely similar to isolation” in 1918 “created the conditions for the Spanish flu to kill 50 million people.”
Professor Gupta’s model suggested that the virus arrived in the UK in December, about two weeks before the first reported case and one month before the first reported death.
This means that it could have had enough time to spread widely, with many Britons acquiring immunity. Professor Gupta had recommended tests to test the theory.
In May, the Oxford epidemiologist said companies could then reopen immediately without risking a second spike in Covid-19 infections.
She told Unherd, “I think there is a chance we could have done better by doing nothing at all, or at least doing something different, which would have been to pay attention to protecting the vulnerable , for thinking of protecting the vulnerable 30 or 40 years ago, when we started cutting hospital beds.
“The roots of this go back a long way.
“The government’s defense is that this (the imperial model) was a worse plausible scenario. I agree that this was a worse plausible scenario – or at least possible.
“The question is, should we act on the worst possible scenario, given the costs of foreclosure? It seems to me that since the costs of locking are increasing. “