The head of the World Health Organization is warning against a strategy of pursuing herd immunity to stop the coronavirus pandemic, calling the idea unethical.
At a news briefing Monday in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said health officials should only try to achieve immunity through vaccination, not through exposing people to the virus.
Herd immunity happens when a population is protected from a virus because a threshold immunity has been reached in that society.
“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic. It's scientifically and ethically problematic,” Tedros said.
The WHO estimates that about 10% of the world has contracted the coronavirus. It is not yet known what percentage rate of infection is needed to achieve herd immunity.
Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from measles, about 95% of the population must be vaccinated, while for polio, the threshold is about 80%.
Virus can survive 28 days
In another development Monday, scientists in Australia discovered that the coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, can survive on solid common surfaces for as long as 28 days.
In a study published in Virology Journal, researchers at CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), Australia’s national science agency, found the SARS-CoV-2 virus was “extremely robust,” surviving on smooth surfaces at 20 degrees Celsius, compared to the flu virus, which lasts for 17 days in the same circumstances. The scientists at CSIRO also found the SARS-CoV-2 virus stopped being infectious after about 24 hours at 40 degrees Celsius.
The scientists at CSIRO found the novel coronavirus can survive on such common surfaces as paper banknotes, glass and stainless steel.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a new coronavirus alert system for the country during a speech in Parliament. Instead of a blanket nationwide lockdown, the government’s new system designates areas as medium, high and very high risk.
Under the first tier, areas with relatively low infection rates will have limited restrictions on restaurants and bars, with the restrictions gradually tightening up to the third tier, when restaurants and bars will be forced to close. Lawmakers will vote on the move on Tuesday.
The new system is being implemented as Britain reaches what a spokesman for Johnson described as “a critical juncture.” The nation is experiencing a dramatic surge of new cases, especially in the northern cities of Liverpool, Merseyside, Manchester and Newcastle. Britain has nearly 43,000 coronavirus deaths, one of the highest numbers in Europe.
At the Vatican, four Swiss Guards, the corps that protects the pope, tested positive. The Vatican said the men have been isolated, and officials are tracing and notifying anyone with whom the men had contact.
Pope Francis recently drew criticism on social media for his decision not to wear a mask during a Wednesday audience.
In Spain, supporters of the far-right Vox Party held protests by car across the country against coronavirus restrictions. Protesters honked horns and waved Spanish flags out of their car windows.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex refused to rule out further lockdowns on Monday after health officials reported about 43,000 new infections over the weekend.
“Nothing should be ruled out when we see the situation in our hospitals,” Castex told broadcaster France Info. Government officials are set to review health data on Wednesday and consider further restrictions in some areas.
In Belgium, organizers of the Brussels auto show canceled the January event which typically draws 500,000 visitors to the capital city.
More than 37.6 million people around the world have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, and more than 1 million people have died, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. India officially topped 7 million total infections on Sunday, second only to the United States, which has more than 7.7 million confirmed cases.
Health authorities in the eastern Chinese coastal city of Qingdao will test all 9 million of its citizens after reporting nine new coronavirus cases on Sunday, all of them linked to a hospital that treats infected travelers from overseas.
The new cases include four confirmed infections and five asymptomatic cases, making them the first recorded locally transmitted asymptomatic infections in China since Sept. 24, according to the Bloomberg news service.