China tests entire city for virus as WHO slams herd immunity idea
China rushed Tuesday to test an entire city of nine million people within a few days of a minor coronavirus outbreak, as the WHO warned that it was "scientifically and ethically problematic" to let the pathogen run free for herd immunity to reach.
The virus is still spreading rapidly around the world, with well over 37 million infections, and nations that suppressed their first outbreaks are now battling new waves - especially in some parts of Europe.
In the absence of a vaccine, governments are cautious about allowing the virus to spread freely. China is launching a full-scale campaign to test all Qingdao residents after a handful of cases were discovered on Sunday.
"As of 8 a.m. ... our city has taken 3.08 million samples for nucleic testing," the city's health commission said Tuesday, adding that no new positive samples were found.
Chinese officials intend to test the entire city - around 9.4 million people - by Thursday.
In scenes that contrasted with the fiddly testing efforts of other nations, health workers in protective clothing quickly pitched tents and residents stood in line until late Monday night to deliver samples.
In contrast to economically painful lockdowns and social distancing, there have been proposals in some countries to circulate the coronavirus in the population in order to build “herd immunity” - where so much of the population has been infected, there aren't enough new victims for the population Virus jump.
However, the World Health Organization said such plans were unfeasible and required mass vaccinations to work.
"Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus and not being exposed to it," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday, describing the idea as "scientifically and ethically problematic".
"It is just unethical to allow a dangerous virus that we do not fully understand to run free. It is not an option."
A study published in the journal The Lancet Infectious Diseases further illustrated the challenge, showing that exposure to the virus may not be a guarantee of future immunity - and the second infection could be accompanied by even more severe symptoms.
- vaccine backlash -
The pandemic has claimed more than a million lives worldwide and fueled breakneck efforts to develop vaccines and effective treatments.
Some made it into the late-stage clinical testing, but optimism was dampened on Monday when Johnson & Johnson announced that the 60,000-patient study was temporarily canceled because of an unexplained disease in a participant.
There are ten companies conducting Phase 3 studies with their candidates worldwide, including Johnson & Johnson.
The pharmaceutical company has received US funding of around $ 1.45 billion as part of Operation Warp Speed, which is supported by President Donald Trump, who is aiming for a political upswing with a coronavirus breakthrough ahead of the November elections.
Critics have condemned Trump for his handling of the crisis, with infections and deaths more well known in the United States than anywhere else in the world.
Trump was banned from campaigning for 10 days after getting Covid-19 but returned to the stage on Monday.
"I've been through it and now they say I'm immune ... I feel so powerful," Trump told a cheering crowd in Florida, few of whom were wearing masks.
His claim to immunity has not been proven.
- "Catastrophic, catastrophic" -
European nations are trying to contain new flare-ups and governments are putting tighter restrictions in place to avoid destroying previous outbreaks.
In the past few days, cases in France, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic have risen sharply.
And there was also a surge in the UK, which has the highest death toll in Europe.
He said companies forced to shut down would get government support, but his focus on restaurant closings sparked trouble.
"Catastrophic, catastrophic," said Simon Ashdown, owner of Chepstow Castle Pub in Liverpool.
"I don't think there will be many companies after this lockdown."
bur-qan / ed
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