Allowing herd immunity to progress in a bid to battle COVID-19 is “scientifically and ethically problematic” the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

Herd immunity is the term used for when a large proportion of the population either gets infected or gets a protective vaccine.

At the moment, researchers are still working on developing a coronavirus vaccine. In the meantime, some people have argued that the virus should be tackled by letting it spread naturally among communities to achieve herd immunity.

But, speaking at a press conference on Monday, the WHO’s Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said he did not agree with this approach.

He said: “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.

“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic.”

Relying on herd immunity to control the pandemic would be “scientifically and ethically problematic”, Dr Tedros said.

He added: “Allowing a dangerous virus that we don’t fully understand to run free is simply unethical. It’s not an option.”

The WHO chief also announced how antibody tests suggest that only 10% of people in most countries around the world have been exposed to COVID-19.

In the community:

Dr Tedros said: “Letting COVID-19 circulate unchecked therefore means allowing unnecessary infections, suffering and death.”

So far coronavirus has killed more than one million people from around the world and more than 37.5 million people have been infected.

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