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Expert warns UK must build a 'level of immunity' instead of going into 'harsh' second lockdown

George Martin
·2-min read
Women wearing face masks board a bus in London. It is mandatory to wear face covering when travelling on London Transport. In the last few days, there has been an increase in the daily number of coronavirus cases and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson hasn't ruled out a second national lockdown. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Women wearing face masks board a bus in London. (PA)

The UK should build up a “level of immunity” to coronavirus rather than entering a second lockdown, an expert has claimed.

Professor Carl Heneghan, director of Oxford University's centre for evidence-based medicine, said that in order for the virus to become manageable “there has to be a level of immunity”.

Prof Heneghan pointed to Sweden’s coronavirus measures, arguing the country has successfully "controlled the disease so that in the population it was at manageable levels".

"Through the summer they had much higher cases than we had. When the impact of the disease is low, that's creating population immunity. The only other way to do that is through vaccination,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

A man walks past an NHS superman graffiti that pays tribute to NHS workers on a wall in Tulse Hill, London, as the UK continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
A man walks past an NHS superman graffiti in London. (PA)

"Even if we do have a vaccination there will be a need to get some level of population immunity. It’s what we do for all other infections in the community."

Prof Heneghan said it is "too early" for a second national lockdown and said there is currently no evidence of a "what's called a second wave of coronavirus".

Read more: UK risks new lockdown as COVID cases hit highest since May

He argued the virus was operating in a seasonal way similar to other respiratory infections, saying: "What we have to do now is slow down, this is a long winter."

"If we go now it's too early. As it gets colder, as we're inside more, there will be more coughs and colds,” he added.

"If you're looking at a break, we need it in the mid-winter when we might run into problems.

"There's no evidence right now of what's called a second wave."

Prof Heneghan’s comments come after Boris Johnson said on Saturday that the UK is "now seeing a second wave" of coronavirus.

"Clearly when you look at what is happening, you've got to wonder whether we need to go further than the rule of six that we brought in," the prime minister said.

"We want to keep schools open," he said. "We want to keep the economy open as far as we possibly can, we want to keep businesses going."

He added: "The only way we can do that is, obviously, if people follow the guidance."

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