UK could reach herd immunity ‘within days’, say scientists

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Herd immunity.
Modelling by scientists suggests the UK could reach herd immunity by next week (Picture: Getty/PA)

The UK is set to achieve Covid-19 herd immunity within days with more than 70% of Brits protected against the virus, according to scientific modelling.

Dynamic causal modelling carried out by University College London (UCL) suggests the country should pass the threshold for herd immunity due to the number of people protected through vaccination or after recovering from the virus.

UCL’s report, published on Sunday, states that by tomorrow 73.4% of the population should have antibodies – enough to consider the country has reached herd immunity. Experts said the threshold fluctuates depending on the transmission risk which they expect will fall during spring, while daily deaths are ‘predicted to fall to low levels’ by the end of May.

Prof Karl Friston, of UCL, told The Telegraph: ‘The herd immunity estimates surprised me. However, they are unremarkable when one considers that over 50% of adults have been vaccinated, around 42% of people have now been exposed to the virus and about 10% have pre-existing immunity.

Vaccine data UK.
At least 31.5 million Britons have received the first dose of the vaccine (Picture:

Covid death toll UK.
The report comes as deaths and cases continue to fall across the country (Picture:

‘When factoring in the estimated efficacy of vaccination in terms of sterilising immunity, this – according to the model – means about 70% of the population are immune.

‘Based upon contact rates at the beginning of the pandemic and estimated transmission risk, this is nearly at the herd immunity threshold.’ However, UCL’s report warns: ‘Much like long-term weather forecasts, the ensuing predictions should not be taken too seriously because there is an inherent (although quantified) uncertainty about underlying epidemiological and socio-behavioural variables.’

The university’s predictions are a stark contrast to the Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) most recent figures stating that around half of Britons now have antibodies.

According to blood samples taken at random in the week ending March 14, more than 54% of people in England had antibodies, compared with around 50% in Wales, more than 42% in Scotland and about 49% in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile, modelling published by Imperial College London this week, suggested the number of Britons who are protected stands at just 34%.

The report comes as daily coronavirus transmission rates and deaths continue to fall. A total of 45 people died with Covid-19 on Wednesday, while 2,763 positive tests were returned. More than 31.5 million people have now received a first vaccine dose, with more than 5.5 million having a second jab.