Foreign Policy: “Herd immunity” is no more… Why did Britain retract its plan to infect people with the Coronavirus?

Foreign Policy major magazines, “Foreign Policy”, prepared a lengthy report on the policy of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which he announced a few days ago and then retracted it and known to build “herd immunity” in the face of the Corona virus.

The American Foreign Policy magazine noted in its report that the Johnson government acknowledged that its strategy to allow the virus to spread and build immunity was a failure, but it did not reach mandatory controls.

The magazine said that while Europeans closed schools and put soldiers on the streets to enforce strict quarantine rules, the official advice of the British government to its citizens was, essentially, only keeping calm and going on.

Schools, restaurants, theaters, clubs and sports places remained open; only those with influenza-like symptoms were advised to stay at home.

The magazine pointed out that the simple British reaction was driven by a controversial theory adopted by leading scientists in the United Kingdom government: The best way to mitigate the long-term consequences of a coronavirus is to allow the virus to spread naturally in order to build a “herd immunity” population.

Monday night, this theory collided with the facts.

A new analysis, by immunologists at Imperial College London and the London School of Health and Tropical Medicine, of the effect of the coronavirus in Italy suggested that up to 30 percent of patients hospitalized with the virus would need intensive care treatment, and if these numbers are repeated in the United Kingdom, they will quickly overwhelm the national health services run by the state in Britain.

Foreign Policy said that within hours of the report, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared at a daily briefing at Government House to retract the “herd immunity” policy.

Johnson acknowledged the need to “take drastic measures”, and declared that from now on, the British should try to work from home and voluntarily refrain from unnecessary travel and social contact.

However, Johnson’s tone, British policy, and the reaction of many Britons remained in stark contrast to the rest of Europe a striking echo of the prime minister’s approach to Britain leaving the European Union earlier this year.

Johnson now takes an approach that is closer to that of US President Donald Trump, appealing to the public for voluntary cooperation rather than his request than that of the European Union.

In contrast, French President Emmanuel Macron, warning that his country is “at war” with the coronavirus, announced that citizens will have to register their intention to leave their homes at any site nationwide or face a fine of 38 euros.

($ 42) executed by 100,000 policemen.

Britain has not imposed any mandatory restrictions on movement or on opening bars and entertainment venues.

Instead, Johnson said the government was providing “very strong advice not to visit public places like theaters,” but added, “I don’t think it will be necessary to use the enforcement authorities”.

On the evening of the Johnson announcement, Twitter filled photos of several Britons who cheerfully defied the government’s advice by drinking in bars and clubs.

The next morning, Prime Minister Stanley Johnson’s 79-year-old father told a challenging chat program: “Of course I will go to a bar if I need to go to a bar”.

Johnson’s strategy has been under fire for several days by opposition leaders at home and officials abroad.

Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn criticized the government for being “satisfied” and “behind the curve” in its handling of the coronary virus outbreak.

“The United Kingdom and Switzerland… have abandoned any measure to contain or curb the virus,” Singapore National Development Minister Lawrence Wong told reporters on Sunday.

Several senior British doctors questioned the rationale for the herd immunity policy announced by Johnson, and urged the government to publish evidence of its refusal to follow the rest of Europe in the immediate closure.

“We have a small opportunity to protect our nation, learn about this new emerging virus and deal with this unprecedented threat to global health,” wrote Arne Akbar, President of the British Society of Immunology.

The Twitter hashtag accused #ToryGenocide, Johnson and his conservative party, of deliberately allowing patients and the elderly to die.

Government advocates insist the criticism is unfair and that the Johnson administration has stuck to the advice of the country’s best doctors.

“Of course at the time of such a person he would blame the government for everything,” said a senior government employee who sees Johnson on a daily basis but is not authorized to speak in an official statement“.

The truth is that what the audience hears is what we hear… Boris was in fact very upright.

He told the British people that there would be deaths.

He said that this is a very serious crisis and that our priority is to save lives, assuming it is too late to try to contain the outbreak.

He added that the idea that the government played down the crisis is “nonsense … We work with the best science we have … When the facts change, our politics change”.

Once the team from Imperial College and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine presented their new conclusions that the old approach would not work, he said, “There was no hesitation: We changed the official advice within three hours.”

The source said at a press conference Monday evening in coordination with the Johnson administration, the epidemiologist Imperial College Azra Ghani explained that her team was “expecting the herd to be immune, but we now realize that it is not possible to cope with this”.

Ghani told reporters that the UK’s position has officially shifted from containment to “suppressing the epidemic … as it is the only strategy that can be implemented at the moment”.

However, Britain’s response remains markedly different from the rest of the continent – as well as from many US states and cities that have imposed full closures until Tuesday.

The UK has refused to follow the steps of the European Union and a travel ban outside Britain.

Although many British airlines announced that they would reduce their capacity by up to 80 percent, airports and ferries through the channels and the channel tunnel are still open.

The main rationale for the UK government not to accumulate mandatory restrictions on movement and social interactions was the fear that the British would experience “behavioral fatigue” and resume normalcy before the outbreak was contained.

The logic is that strict social quarantine is not sustainable for more than a short period and will lead to an outbreak of the new virus as people defy the restrictions.

Last week, more than 200 prominent British scientists challenged the government’s approach in an open letter that asked whether “enough is known about” behavioral fatigue ” and they said” continuing to work as usual for as long as possible is undermining the message of coronavirus”.

Relying on controversial theories of behavioral science has sometimes been a hallmark of a group of key UK government advisors – many of whom previously worked in Britain’s successful exit campaign.

Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s Chief Counselor and one of the most powerful personalities in management, has written and repeatedly written about how data science and behavioral modeling are key to successful campaigns and governance.

Susan Mitchie, director of the Center for Behavior Change at University College London and a member of the Governmental Consultative Group on COVID-19, confirmed that a major part of the government’s approach has been modeled after the so-called “COM-B” model.

This theory states that behavior change is only possible if the population has “the ability, the opportunity, and the motivation”.

“Unless you can tag these three things, this behavior will not happen,” Michy told the Guardian“.

If a large population is not so concerned and you are asking people to sacrifice so much, it will not be effective if these two things are exactly the same.”

In other words, according to a source working with Cummings who asked not to be identified, “Just telling people to obey will not work.”

Insiders believe that Johnson-Cummings’ approach to pushing and persuading coronavirus reduction behaviors will ultimately be more effective than the European position of banning social interaction and punishing violators of the law.

“This kind of government leadership will not work with the British people,” said Cummings’ colleague”.

The end result is the same, but it works best when people choose to do it.”

If the behavior of the Johnson family is something that should continue, then there may be some truth to this logic.

If the new British Prime Minister ultimately persuades his father to respect quarantine nationwide, he may succeed with the rest of the country as well.