New research suggests Britain will achieve herd immunity by next week – thanks to the large number of people vaccinated or recovered from Covid.
Experts at University College London (UCL) estimate that by Monday 73.4 per cent of the population will have protection against the virus, reports The Telegraph.
But not everyone agrees, with modelling by Imperial College suggesting just 34 per cent had some form of immunity at the end of last month.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – based on antibody testing – show that around 54 per cent had antibodies – either because they had the virus or because they had been vaccinated – by March 14.
Since then a further 7.1 million people have received a first jab, while nearly 100,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19.
Latest figures show 31.7 million people have been vaccinated, with 5,683,509 receiving a second jab.
It is estimated that a third of people who contract the virus do not display symptoms, so the number of cases is likely to be higher.
Prof Karl Friston, of UCL, told The Telegraph: “The herd immunity estimates surprised me. However, they are unremarkable when one considers that over 50 per cent of adults have been vaccinated, around 42 per cent of people have now been exposed to the virus and about 10 per cent have pre-existing immunity.
“When factoring in the estimated efficacy of vaccination in terms of sterilising immunity, this – according to the model – means about 70 per cent of the population are immune.”
He added that this is “nearly at the herd immunity threshold”.
Modellers anticipate deaths will fall sharply by the summer, even though the R rate – which measures the speed the virus is spreading – is believed to be above 1.
This is despite the SPI-M group, which advises the Department of Health, warning that easing lockdown is “highly likely” to cause a rise in hospital admissions and fatalities.
Boris Johnson this week said his roadmap out of England’s lockdown is “on course”, with restrictions pencilled in to be completely lifted on June 21.
The government is considering controversial “Covid passports” which would compel people to reveal their Covid status before being allowed to go to large events or do things like visit pubs and non-essential shops.