The Great Barrington Declaration, written by scientists from Harvard, Oxford and Stanford, declares that the lockdown strategies used in many countries have failed and instead proposes a more targeted approached called “Focused Protection.”
Many scientists and public health experts have pointed out that the lockdowns, in addition to violating basic freedoms, are creating additional hazards for public health, including increases in suicide, depression, drug use and crime.
Thousands of scientists and medical professionals — as well as tens of thousands of members of the general public — have signed the Declaration.
As the petition states:
Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.
Some public health officials have stated that the lockdowns may have to last until 2022, but the approach of the scientists who signed the Barrington Declaration shows that lockdowns were never the right solution from the beginning.
Fortunately, our understanding of the virus is growing. We know that vulnerability to death from COVID-19 is more than a thousand-fold higher in the old and infirm than the young. Indeed, for children, COVID-19 is less dangerous than many other harms, including influenza.
As immunity builds in the population, the risk of infection to all – including the vulnerable – falls. We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity – i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable – and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine. Our goal should therefore be to minimize mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity.
The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk. We call this Focused Protection.
Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19. By way of example, nursing homes should use staff with acquired immunity and perform frequent PCR testing of other staff and all visitors. Staff rotation should be minimized. Retired people living at home should have groceries and other essentials delivered to their home. When possible, they should meet family members outside rather than inside. A comprehensive and detailed list of measures, including approaches to multi-generational households, can be implemented, and is well within the scope and capability of public health professionals.
Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. Simple hygiene measures, such as hand washing and staying home when sick should be practiced by everyone to reduce the herd immunity threshold. Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open. Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity.
Lockdowns are not compassionate. They result in many unnecessary deaths. One UN official estimated that 130 million people could die from starvation because of economic disruptions caused by the lockdowns. As the Barrington Declaration states, the best approach to COVID-19 is to protect the most vulnerable, encourage basic common sense health precautions, and allow the less vulnerable to go about their lives as normal. Some of us have been saying that since March.