New Zealand scientists say UK’s ‘awful experiment’ on Covid will threaten the country

‘If you are going to train a virus to escape vaccine-induced immunity, you would do exactly what they’re doing’

Joe Middleton
Tuesday 13 July 2021 21:57 BST
Chris Whitty says next peak will be lower but NHS will still be under pressure

Scientists in New Zealand have expressed concern at Britain’s unlocking of Covid restrictions, describing it as an “awful experiment.”

On Monday Boris Johnson announced plans to scrap a number of coronavirus lockdown measures on July 19, including ditching social distancing and dropping the legal requirement to wear a face mask.

This is despite coronavirus infections running at around 35,000 per day and the expectation that they will increase in the coming weeks.

“We’re seeing rising hospital admissions, and we must reconcile ourselves, sadly, to more deaths from COVID,” he said at a press conference on Monday 5 July.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern has already dismissed the strategy being adopted by UK policymakers, and said that “different countries are taking different choices”.

Academics and medical experts in the country have also raised concerns about the UK’s plan to drop restrictions despite the continuing surge of the Delta variant in the country.

University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles told Newsroom: “The question is, how much worse is Delta going to get?

“They are running a really quite awful experiment.”

Jemma Geoghegan, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Otago, expressed concern that just over half of the UK adult population has been vaccinated and that this could encourage new vaccine resistant variants to be produced.

She told Newsroom: “If you are going to train a virus to escape vaccine-induced immunity, you would do exactly what they’re doing.

“You’re basically providing a training ground for the virus to overcome those selection pressures. You’re allowing the virus to continue to spread.

“With this moderately immune population and with the Delta variant that has an R0 that’s estimated to be probably five or six, you need a threshold to be much, much, much higher than they currently have.”

New Zealand has implemented one of the more successful Covid strategies globally and has largely managed to eliminate coronavirus from the community.

It has so far recorded 2,500 cases and 26 deaths from the virus.

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