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Government’s herd immunity ‘lecture’ for Corbyn

Former Labour leader slams Number 10’s ‘absurd’ Covid-19 strategy

21 August, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Jeremy Corbyn: ‘It was absurd, that actually you would build up herd immunity by allowing people to die’

FORMER Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has revealed how he was “lectured” on herd immunity by the government as the coronavirus pandemic was first unfolding – and has accused Number 10 of not making adequate preparations.

Speaking on the A World to Win podcast, Islington North MP Mr Corbyn described attending a Cabinet Office meeting in the spring with shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth.

“The last time I discussed herd immunity was when I worked on a pig farm 40 years ago,” said Mr Corbyn.

“It was absurd, that actually you would build up herd immunity by allowing people to die.

“And so, while the government was going into eugenic formulas and discussing all this stuff, they were not making adequate preparations.”

The term “herd immunity” became part of the public parlance when the government’s chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, said in March that 60 per cent of the population would need to catch coronavirus to achieve it – a strategy that many experts believe could have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Health secretary Matt Hancock

The theory is based on the assumption that people would not catch Covid-19 more than once, and that having the disease and surviving would create immunity.

As the crisis has continued, there have been warnings that such widespread immunity could only be achieved through the use of a vaccine, rather than community infection.

But health secretary Matt Hancock has denied that herd immunity was ever the government’s aim. On March 15, he said: “Our goal is to protect life. I want to be absolutely crystal clear that we will do what is necessary to protect life.”

And a government spokesperson said this week it was “categorically wrong to suggest herd immunity was the government’s aim”.

“Our goal is to reduce the impact of coronavirus – protecting the most vulnerable and ensuring our NHS and social care system has capacity to cope while leading the world on scientific research into therapeutics and a vaccine,” they added.

“This is an unprecedented global pandemic – our strategy was clearly set out and guided at every stage by the advice of scientific experts.

“Our response ensured the NHS was not overwhelmed even at the virus’s peak, so that everyone was always able to get the best possible care.”

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