Source: United Kingdom – Executive Government & Departments
SAGE have published a document which considers the scientific aspects relating to a strategy that would segment the population into broad age and risk groups, for example adding further restrictions to those over 60 or who are otherwise identified as vulnerable, while not attempting to restrain transmission in younger people.
Prof James Naismith FRS FRSE FMedSci, Director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and University of Oxford, said:
“The segmentation advice document reflects the science as we understand it today. It actually spells out the numbers, consequences and harms a ‘segment the vulnerable’ policy would do, even if it were possible. This is scientific document. Millions of people including key workers would have to isolate, the consequences for them and the rest of us would be severe. Since multi-generational households would have to be isolated, this would disproportionately burden the non-white population. As the document says there is no evidence for herd immunity to SARS-CoV-2.
“As a scientist, I would strongly advise Government against such a “segment the vulnerable” policy. No one likes social restrictions, they are destructive and harmful, however, they are currently the best way to reduce the toll of covid19 in the UK. It is for politicians not scientists to take decisions about what policy the country should follow and to balance competing concerns. This scientific analysis should help guide them.”
Dr Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton, said:
“This refers to segmentation, as proposed by the Great Barrington Declaration. The idea is to reach a level of herd immunity in the population by allowing the spread of COVID-19 through much of society whilst trying to protect vulnerable populations. In my opinion, it is a very bad idea.
“It is good to see a consensus statement from SAGE, reiterating that this segmentation idea is a strategy that has no place in our society. This follows on from statements by the WHO, who called the idea ‘scientifically problematic and unethical’. Other major expert groups have also refuted a segmentation strategy, including Independent SAGE, the Academy for Medical Sciences, and the many signatories of the John Snow Memorandum.
“Attempting to reach herd immunity in this way is problematic for many reasons. We have seen during a full national lockdown that vulnerable people could not be easily shielded, with a great deal of excess death. There is also the emerging evidence around long COVID, and issues of waning immunity and reinfection.
“A key argument by those in favour of herd immunity via this segmentation route is that other groups of patients have less access to healthcare, such as those suffering from cancer or stroke. However, as we are seeing in the UK right now, significant COVID-19 community transmission results in large numbers of hospitalised patients, reducing beds available for other patients and placing that huge excess burden on the health service. Strategies that suppress the virus are not just good for reducing the burden of COVID-19, they also benefit other patients too.”
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