Tory Senedd candidate criticised lockdowns and advocated ‘herd immunity’ approach
A Tory Senedd candidate has criticised lockdowns and advocated the so-called “herd immunity” approach, it has emerged.
Charlie Evans, who is standing for the party in Dwyfor Meirionnydd, suggested that the “herd immunity” approach was the “only means of beating coronavirus”, in an article for the right-wing website, Prydain Review.
He lauded the strategy pursued in Sweden, because they “chose not to impose the lockdowns like the rest of Europe”.
There have been 13,923 deaths from Covid-19 in the country and it currently has one of the highest infection rates in western Europe.
The Swedish authorities have come under heavy criticism in The Lancet medical journal for their “failed national approach” that was not aligned with “global best practice”.
But according to Evans, the country “stuck to its guns” and “did not press the panic button”.
The candidate was also critical of the “zero-Covid” strategy of New Zealand, where they locked down hard and early, and where there has been 26 deaths from the virus, compared to 127,428 in the UK.
Charlie Evans said: “Of course, governments around the world were not blessed with the benefit of hindsight and with an unknown virus, lockdown was probably perceived to the safest approach, save for the enormous economic, social and public health damage it would do.
“Government opponents rallied against its so-called herd immunity approach despite it not being official government policy yet was the only means of beating coronavirus either by enough of us getting it or through mass inoculation.
“Yet following Professor Neil Ferguson’s modelling showing Britain having 500,000 deaths if it did nothing or 250,000 if it continued on its current path, the government were spooked into action.”
He added: “On such figures, you can see why. Epidemiologists at the time predicted 80% of the population needed to get infected to achieve natural herd immunity and with a case fatality rate of around about 1% that would have entailed significant deaths.
“Even if the fatality rate was more akin to 0.5% it would still have been significant. However, the percentage of population requiring infection achieve natural herd immunity has since been revised down to about 40%.
“And thankfully, more research continues to suggest that many of us have residual immunity through T-cells acquired through illnesses such as the common cold which is in fact a common strain of coronavirus.
“Sweden however stuck to its guns. Anders Tegnell, the Swedish state epidemiologist did not press the panic button and chose not to impose the lockdowns like the rest of Europe.
“New Zealand continue to adopt the damaging ‘zero-Covid’ approach, locking down Auckland for just a couple of dozen cases.
“Lockdown gave the public unreasonable expectations of what to expect. It went from being used to flatten the curve to then being a strategy of virus suppression.
“We have seen that you can make some mitigations for it but you can not crush it. The public finally seems to be accepting that we have to live with it.”
Mariam Claeson and Stefan Hanson have been critical of the Swedish approach in The Lancet medical journal.
They said: “In December, 2020, we wrote about the Swedish response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our hope was that our Comment, together with hundreds of other fact-based articles, would gain the attention of the Swedish Public Health Agency (Folkhälsomyndigheten [FHM]), that they would revisit and change the national strategy that they had designed so that it would be more aligned with global best practice, and that the political decision makers would act on it.
“They did not. Since then, the FHM has recorded more than 5600 deaths from Covid-19 in Sweden, and cases and deaths continue to rise as we face the third wave without any widespread sense of gravity or urgency.
“Instead of following evolving evidence, the FHM has doubled down and defended its approach without reconsidering the assumptions on which the failed national approach is based.
“It has downplayed the roles of asymptomatic spread, aerosol transmission, children as potential source of infection, and the use of face masks.
“It has maintained an approach that mainly builds on recommendations to take voluntary actions, guided (in our view) more by public opinion than by sound public health policy.
“The media has played a crucial role in this pandemic response, mostly lacking in investigative journalism and failing to question or hold the public health agency accountable, with some exceptions.
“As of April 16, 2021, more than 13 700 people have died from Covid-19 in Sweden.
“The country has one of the highest infection rates in western Europe according to Our World in Data Covid-19 statistics, with 606 new infections per million per day, while its neighbours Denmark, Finland, and Norway reported 115, 62, and 112 new infections per million per day, respectively (April 15, 2021).”
Charlie Evans and the Welsh Conservatives have been approached for comment.