No more than five per cent of the population of France and Spain – two of the countries hardest-hit by the coronavirus – have contracted the disease, say two new studies in a major blow to hopes of “herd immunity”.

A mere 4.4 per cent of the French population – or 2.8 million people – have been infected, according to findings of the Pasteur Institue published in the journal Science .

Even in the worst-hit parts of France – the eastern part of the country and the Paris region – the infection rate only reaches between 9 and 10 per cent on average, it found.