THE UK gave up on containing coronavirus too soon due to the discredited 'herd immunity' theory, a leading scientist claims.
Early on in the UK's outbreak, the Government suggested one way of beating the deadly bug was by allowing 80 per cent of Brits to get infected to build 'herd immunity'.
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However, Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the Edinburgh University, has now blasted the Government for making this assumption – saying it caused measures that could have helped to slow the pandemic to be abandoned.
Those measures include mass testing and rigorous contact tracing – two actions which have helped South Korea keep their coronavirus death toll below 200.
Professor Sridhar tweeted yesterday morning: "I fear that Imperial perspective resulted in the UK giving up on containment too early and assuming everyone will get it.
"Planning and preparing for unprecedented testing and using big data/apps for tracing were taken off the table. In my view, we went down the wrong path."
It comes after the UK's death toll yesterday surged to 1,829, with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the country standing at 25,150.
The UK has been slow to test in comparison to other countries – with less than 5,000 daily swabs being carried out until March.
And Prof Sridhar added that it was this delay in testing that could mean the UK will be stuck in lockdown for a longer duration of time than other countries.
"We will be stuck in lockdown until we get test, trace, isolation plan," she said.
"We are basically pressing pause on the spread of virus while we race to catch up. If we're not using the time now, then we're just wasting days/months in lockdown not aggressively figuring out where virus is."
Prof Sridhar said the Government should learn from South Korea, whose “trace, test, treat” policy is being lauded as one of the world’s best approaches to tackling the virus.
In particular, the South Korean Government have carried out 400,000 tests and got Covid-19 under control.
"South Korea never had lockdown, only 152 deaths, and didn't expose health staff to unnecessary risk and pressure," Prof Sridhar added.
"Each day in lockdown: kids fall into poverty, domestic abuse increases, social fabric comes apart, major economic hit.
"Lockdowns are expensive. We need to use the time."
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Michael Gove last night said the UK had to go "further, faster” to increase the ability to carry out coronavirus tests to deal with the outbreak.
And while the UK previously had a target of 25,000 daily checks, the Minister for the Cabinet Office said the lack of availability of crucial chemicals which are needed in the testing process was a 'critical constraint' on this.
He claimed Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock were now working together to try to source the globally in-demand material that Britain needs.
Speaking at the daily Downing Street press conference, Mr Gove said: "While the rate of testing is increasing we must go further, faster.
"A critical constraint on the ability to rapidly increase testing capacity is the availability of the chemical reagents which are necessary in the testing.
"The Prime Minister and the Health Secretary are working with companies worldwide to ensure that we get the material we need to increase tests of all kinds."
In comparison to Germany where nearly 200,000 tests are being carried out every day, the UK is currently managing just under 10,000 tests a day.
Downing Street have now suggested their target of 25,000 daily checks may not be met until "mid to late April".
Droves of politicians have slammed the Government's approach, with Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said the efforts so far were an "embarrassment'".
Earlier this week, it was revealed one in four Brits could get coronavirus tests in weeks to shorten the lockdown after the Government agreed a deal to buy 17.5million kits.
The finger-prick test, which detects antibodies to the virus in the blood, is able to determine if someone has or has already had Covid-19.
When a person gets infected by the virus, the body starts making specially designed proteins called antibodies to fight the infection.
However, the Government made it clear that those tests will not be available for the public to buy and they will be prioritise NHS staff and key workers – like doctors and nurses – to enable people to go back to work.
Boots and Amazon will be used to distribute tests to NHS workers and other critical workers who are self-isolating – along Government lines.
Users or pharmacists will have to prick a finger and place a drop of blood on a stick, which looks like a home pregnancy test.
Some will give an immediate result and others must be returned to a lab. Results will be recorded on medical records.
Currently, Public Health England is only testing patients for Covid-19 in hospital with nasal swabs.
This test only shows whether someone has the virus – and not whether they have already recovered from it.
However, the new at-home test would reveal if someone has had the bug and built up immunity, and is therefore unlikely to catch it again.
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