The government discussed the possibility of ‘chicken pox parties’ as a means of building herd immunity at the start of the pandemic, shocking new BBC reports have revealed.
Interviews conducted with more than 20 senior politicians and officials who were in the room when vital Covid-19 decisions were made shows that there was a litany of mistakes and bizarre left-field ideas discussed as Number 10 prepared its response.
“There was a genuine argument in government, which everyone has subsequently denied,” one senior figure told Laura Kuenssberg, about whether there should be a hard lockdown or a plan to protect only the most vulnerable, and even encourage what was described to me at that time as “some degree of herd immunity”.
There was even talk of “chicken pox parties”, where healthy people might be encouraged to gather to spread the disease. And while that was not considered a policy proposal, real consideration was given to whether suppressing Covid entirely could be counter productive.
Shaking hands, chicken pox parties, and regrets https://t.co/gwiMSBoCkv— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) March 15, 2021
According to Sunday Times reports released last year Dominic Cummings led a government response to the coronavirus pandemic with a strategy that protected the economy and put the elderly at risk.
The unelected advisor pushed a discredited “herd immunity” response, saying the prerogative was to “protect the economy and if that means some pensioners die, too bad.”
Jeremy Corbyn also recently revealed that he received an official government briefing about the pandemic that consisted of a “lecture” about herd immunity, which he branded “absurd” and an “eugenic formula” based on “allowing people to die”.
Mr Corbyn also says that Boris Johnson suggested that he “didn’t want to introduce the furlough scheme” in a meeting between the two of them, which Corbyn branded “bizarre”.
Elsewhere, the BBC report also outlines how the prime minister was reluctant to consider ‘draconian’ measures such as a lockdown at the start, and was very much eager to project a ‘keep calm and get on with it’ mentality.
As Kuenssberg notes, “even stopping shaking hands seemed a step too far for the prime minister.
“Before the first major coronavirus briefing on 3 March, he had, I am told, been prepared by aides to say, if asked by journalists, people should stop shaking hands with each other – as per government scientific advice.
“But he said the exact opposite. “I’ve shaken hands with everybody,” he said, about visiting a hospital with Covid patients.
“And it was not just a slip, one of those present at the briefing says. It demonstrated “the whole conflict for him – and his lack of understanding of the severity of what was coming”.”
UK Covid deaths
Despite overseeing an impressive vaccine roll-out many will see it as too little too late after two devastating waves of coronavirus infections drove deaths to in excess of 126,000 people in the UK.
Britain has the sixth-highest number of fatalities in the world and one of the highest per-capita death rates.
Read the full ‘Covid: The inside story of the government’s battle against the virus’ here.