A claim of herd immunity reignites debate over UK COVID policy

Speaking to a group of international reporters on Tuesday, Professor Ferguson said he expected Britain to mostly avoid the spike in cases seen on the continent in recent weeks. This was in part, he said, because so many Britons had been infected since the lockdown was lifted in July, giving the population as a whole greater immunity.

“We may well see a few weeks of slow growth but we are in some sense almost at herd immunity,” he said, adding that Britain was in a slightly better position than nations like Austria, the Netherlands and Germany where restrictions are being reimposed amid soaring infection rates.

Other public health experts are skeptical of Professor Ferguson’s theory, not least because Britain’s high infection rate suggests there is still a large number of people with little or no immunity. They say it also does not take into account other factors, like new variants or waning protection from vaccines.