THOUSANDS of the world’s top experts have called for an end to harmful lockdowns and for a new focus on protecting the vulnerable.
They say most people could safely return to normal life and build herd immunity while researchers continue to develop a vaccine.
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But those at much greater risk from Covid, such as the elderly and the long-term sick, would be shielded.
More than 3,000 medics and scientists have signed the Great Barrington Declaration, which expresses “grave concerns” about current policies.
They warn the measures are having a “devastating” impact on physical and mental health and will cause “irreparable damage”.
Restrictions have led to lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening heart disease outcomes and fewer cancer screenings.
These will lead to more deaths in years to come, with the working class and young people most affected, they add.
Their proposed approach – named “Focused Protection” – would be a major boost to the economy and most people’s lives.
It would see the full resumption of sporting fixtures, the reopening of theatres, a return to offices and no pub curfews.
The declaration is named after Barrington in the US, where it was drafted. British experts are among the signatories.
It says: “Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
“Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing.
“We know that vulnerability to death from Covid-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young.
“Indeed, for children, Covid-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed
“As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls.
“We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine.
“Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
“The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.
“We call this Focused Protection.”
RESUME LIFE AS NORMAL
The declaration says pensioners should shop online and meet relatives outside. Care home staff should be regularly tested.
It continues: “Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal.
“Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold.
“Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching.
Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed.
“Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home.
“Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume.
“People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.”
Prof Jeremy Rossman, from University of Kent, acknowledged current restrictions are having a significant impact but disagrees with the Declaration.
He warned it may not be possible to protect the vulnerable or to develop herd immunity and highlighted the plight of young people with long-Covid.
He added: “While there is clearly a need to support and ease the physical and mental health burdens many are suffering under, the proposed declaration is both unlikely to succeed and puts the long-term health of many at risk.”