Barack Obama slammed President Donald Trump for trying to ‘actively kneecap’ the postal service to disenfranchise voters.
Obama did not say Trump’s name but did refer to the ‘president’ in his interview on the podcast of David Plouffe, his former campaign manager, in some of his harshest, direct criticism of Trump to date.
‘What we’ve seen in a way that is unique to modern political history is a President who is explicit in trying to discourage people from voting,’ Obama said. ‘What we’ve never seen before is a President say, ‘I’m going to try to actively kneecap the postal service to encourage voting and I will be explicit about the reason I’m doing it.”
‘That’s sort of unheard of,’ he added.
Barack Obama slammed President Donald Trump for trying to ‘kneecap’ the U.S. Postal Service in some of his harshest criticism to date of Trump
Obama accused Trump of starving the U.S. Postal Service of much needed funds in order to re-ensure his re-election and challenged Republicans to do something about it.
‘You now have the President throwing in this additional monkey wrench trying to starve the postal service,’ Obama said. ‘My question is what are Republicans doing where you are so scared of people voting that you are now willing to undermine what is part of the basic infrastructure of American life?’
Democratic Congressional leaders Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also slammed Trump as the two sides negotiate money for the postal service as part of the coronavirus relief talks.
‘The President, his cronies and Republicans in Congress continue to wage their all-out assault on the Postal Service and its role in ensuring the integrity of the 2020 election,’ the two leaders said in a joint statement.
Talks are at a standstill as Congress has left town for the summer and Trump left Friday to spend the weekend at his Bedminister, N.J., country club.
Meanwhile, Concerns about mail-in voting have deepened after the postal service warned officials in the critical battleground state of Pennsylvania that some ballots may not be delivered in time.
Additionally, it was revealed President Trump had an Oval Office meeting last week with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy amid allegations the billionaire mega-donor to the Republican Party has put policies in place that are holding up delivery of the mail.
The White House told The Washington Post the meeting was a ‘congratulatory’ meeting because DeJoy was recently appointed to the position but it came before his tense meeting on Capitol Hill last week with Democratic Leaders Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer.
Worries about mail-in ballots making it to officials in time to be counted are increasing as President Donald Trump criticizes the system but has requested an absentee ballot from Florida
It was revealed President Donald Trump held an Oval Office meeting with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy (above) last week before DeJoy’s meeting with Democrats on Capitol Hill
Officials in Pennsylvania have asked the state Supreme Court to extend the voting deadline after the U.S. Postal Service issued a warning that not all ballots may be delivered on time
Trump has said he hasn’t spoken with DeJoy about the new policies he’s put in place in the postal system – including firing executives and limiting overtime work, which DeJoy says is to make the service financially soluble.
With almost 180 million voters eligible to vote by mail in November’s contest, worries have been piling up about whether those ballots will make it to state officials in time to be counted. President Trump has been an outspoken critic of mail-in voting but postal workers charge DeJoy’s new policies with causing delays that Democrats say could lead to voter disenfranchisement.
Several battleground states that will decide the contest are expected to be affected, including Pennsylvania, where the U.S. Postal Service warned in a July 29 letter that there is a ‘significant risk’ ballots won’t be delivered on time because the state’s voting deadlines are too tight for ‘delivery standards.’
Election officials there have asked the state Supreme Court to expand voting deadlines in order to make sure every ballot is counted, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
If the state court agrees the result of the contest between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden may not be known until days after Election Day.
Trump won the state by less than 1 percent of the vote in 2016 and this year’s contest could be just as close.
State officials, led by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, wants the court to allow mail-in ballots to be counted if they are received by the Friday after Election Day as long as there is no proof they were mailed after November 2 – such as a postmark.
Pennsylvania law currently requires that mail ballots be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
The state will also set up drop boxes for voters to deposit their ballot instead of having to rely on the mail system.
Several other states are wrestling with mail-in voting issues after governors expanded that option to help combat the coronavirus.
Trump has been a longtime critic of mail-in voting but defends absentee voting. He and first lady Melania Trump have already requested and received absentee ballots in Florida to vote in November’s election.
Additionally, the Republican National Committee told the Associated Press it has doubled its legal budget to sue states on the mail-in voting issue to $20 million and is currently involved in about 40 election-related lawsuits.
Meanwhile, President Trump said Thursday he’s blocking the coronavirus relief measure because of Democrats’ funding request for the Post Office, arguing it’s ‘election money’ for universal mail-in voting.
‘Now, they need that money in order to make the Post Office work, so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,’ Trump said in an interview with Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo.
Democrats have put $25 billion for emergency funding for the Post Office in their $3 trillion version of the coronavirus relief legislation – money that President Trump opposes.
‘That’s election money basically,’ he told Bartiromo.
‘If they don’t get those two items, that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting,’ he explained of both the Post Office funding and the overall Democratic top line number of $3 trillion.
‘Now, if we don’t make a deal, that means they don’t get the money. That means they can’t have universal mail-in voting. They just can’t have it,’ he said.
President Donald Trump said he was holding up the coronavirus relief talks because he doesn’t want a Democratic provision giving additional funding for the Post Office, arguing it will bring about universal mail-in voting
Many states are using mail-in voting to combat the coronavirus pandemic; in Washington state where election workers sort ballots in the above voting, mail-in voting has been the normal for years
Voters in Florida drop off their ballots in the August primary
NO CHECKS WITHOUT A DEAL, IRS INSIDER WARNS
An insider with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) believes that Americans may not get their second stimulus check until September if Congress is unable to reach a deal by Friday.
Chad Hooper, the national president of the Professional Managers Association, told Grow that the IRS ‘is better positioned to issue a second check’ than they were in April, but Congress just has to come to an agreement.
Otherwise, that would mean Americans, particularly the more than 30 million out of work, may have to wait until September for the second round of relief.
However, if lawmakers can strike the deal by this Friday, most stimulus checks could be sent out this month.
The first round of relief saw checks of up to $1,200 issued to millions.
President Trump is a frequent, fervent critic of mail-in voting, which he claims leads to election fraud – a claim fiercely disputed by critics and even his own party, which fears losing losing votes if its supporters do not mail their ballots.
He and the Republican Party have launched lawsuits in states that have opted to go with universal mail-in voting in November as a way to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
But his comments on Thursday were some of his most specific to date about how he planned to stop mail-in ballots this fall.
‘They want $25 billion for the Post Office because the Post Office is going to have to go to town to get these great ridiculous ballots in,’ Trump complained.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said mail-in voting is a ‘health issue’ this year given the coronavirus, which has infected more than 5 million Americans.
‘It’s a health issue in 2019,’ she said Thursday morning on MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe.’
‘It’s even more so in the time of the pandemic, so when the president goes after the Postal Service he’s going after an all-American, highly approved by the public institution; like as we would say – before you were born – motherhood, apple pie, the Postal Service, an all-American institution,’ she added.
And presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden said the president didn’t want an election.
‘Pure Trump. He doesn’t want an election,’ he told reporters at an event in Wilmington when asked about the president’s comments.
Governors have expressed concern about long lines at the ballot box and pointed out that many election workers are retirees, making them in the high-risk category to get the disease.
And the post office has warned states to keep in mind the time it takes to mail and return ballots in order to ensure timely delivery for the November election. Postal workers have charged that changes put in place by DeJoy – a Republican donor appointed to the job by Trump – have caused mail delays.
It’s sparked fears among Democrats the postal service is being politicized ahead of November and that the millions of voters expected to use the system to send in their ballot may be disenfranchised.
DeJoy has denied the allegation.
‘Despite any assertions to the contrary, we are not slowing down Election Mail or any other mail,’ he said last week.
Nevada, California and Vermont have opted for universal mail-in voting because of the virus. Five states already conduct elections by mail-in ballots. And many other states have allowed fear of the coronavirus to be used as a reason for requesting an absentee ballot. Other states, like Michigan, are preemptively sending mail-in ballots to all registered voters.
Republicans are suing in several of these states to stop these efforts. They claim mail-in voting leads to ‘ballot harvesting’ – a process where the voter fills out their ballot but party volunteers mail them in for that voter and other voters. Democrats counter it’s merely collecting ballots of those who vote to ensure they are delivered.
President Trump often rails against desires widespread mail-in voting, claiming it will increase chances of fraud and disproportionately benefit Democrats; studies have shown there is very little voter fraud in the United States
President Trump suggested in his press briefing Wednesday that he would not sign off on a relief bill that allocates billions going towards mail-in voting.
‘They turned down this bill because they want radical left agenda items that nobody in their right mind would approve,’ Trump said of Democrats refusing to agree to the GOP bill proposed at the end of last month.
Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has denied that politics are at play in the post office ahead of the November election
‘The bill’s not going to happen because they don’t even want to talk about it because we can’t give them the kind of ridiculous things that they want that have nothing to do with the China virus,’ he said, again referencing mail-in voting and money for the Post Office.
‘So therefore, they don’t have the money to do the universal mail-in voting, so therefore they can’t do it, I guess, right?’ he proposed. ‘Are they going to do it even though they don’t have the money?’
He also argued what Democrats are doing is a bigger threat than to the November election than reports from U.S. foreign agencies that Russia, China and Iran are trying to interfere in the presidential contest.
‘It’s going to be the greatest fraud in the history of elections,’ he argued of the Democrats.
Trump’s revelation about his role in blocking the coronavirus relief measure comes as negotiations between the administration and Capitol Hill have stalled.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has tried to blame Democrats for not being willing to negotiate.
Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer have countered they offered to come down from their $3 trillion proposal if Republicans will come up from their $1 trillion one to meet in the middle at $2 trillion.
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TEN police officers are injured with ‘corrosive substance’ during drugs raid in north London
At least 10 officers have been injured by a suspected corrosive substance during a drugs raid in North London.
Officers attended an industrial area in Barnet to execute a drugs warrant at around 2pm today when several were ‘injured by a suspected corrosive substance,’ the Metropolitan Police said.
Witnesses reported hearing a ‘loud bang’ before ‘hundreds’ of officers flooded the area, alongside paramedics and fire crews.
One woman who was in the area reported seeing ‘police officers being showered down’ by firemen following the incident.
A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: ‘A number of officers have been injured following a police operation in Barnet.
‘At around 13:50hrs on Wednesday, 23 September, officers attended an industrial area in Dale Close, Barnet, to execute a drugs warrant as part of a proactive operation.
‘As they executed the warrant, officers were injured by a suspected corrosive substance.
‘Full enquiries into the exact circumstances continue.
’10 officers are believed to have suffered injuries and are receiving medical treatment have all gone to hospital. We await an assessment of the extent of these injuries. However none are believed to be in a life-threatening condition.
‘We are working to inform their families.
‘A number of males were arrested on suspicion of drug offences at this stage.
‘They have been taken to hospital having also suffered injuries related to the substance. Their conditions are not believed to be life-threatening.
‘Officers remain at the scene and enquiries continue.
‘London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade colleagues are also in attendance.
‘The Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards have been informed as is routine.’
More to follow
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How China has poured billions into the Caribbean
China has poured billions of dollars of investment into the Caribbean while signing tax and trade deals in an attempt to wrest the region out of the West’s sphere of influence and bring it under the sway of Beijing.
The Chinese government has invested at least $7billion in six Caribbean nations since 2005, records show – building roads, ports and the five-star Baha Mar casino and resort in the Bahamas – though the true figure is thought run well into the tens of billions.
While some of the money arrives as part of trade and investment deals, much of it is offered as ‘soft loans’ for infrastructure projects that are harder to track and typically come with requirements to use Chinese contractors for the work. The loans also provide long-term leverage for Beijing over the cash-strapped island nations.
MailOnline investigated China’s growing influence in the region after Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the UK’s foreign affairs committee, accused Beijing of ‘playing a large role’ in Barbados’s recent calls to drop the Queen as the Head of State.
In addition to the loans and investments, eight countries in the Caribbean have signed on to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative, including Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, with agreements in place to deepen trade ties along with building bridges and airports, and improving energy and telecommunications networks.
China has pumped at least $7billion in investment into the Caribbean since 2005, records show, though the true figure – when taking into account soft loan deals and private investment – is thought to run well into the tens of billions. Showpiece projects have included a cricket stadium in Grenada, a casino and resort in the Bahamas, and acquiring Jamaica’s largest port
The Queen pictured with Governor-General of Barbados Dame Sandra Mason at Windsor Castle in 2018
Mr Tugendhat told the Times: ‘China has been using infrastructure investment and debt diplomacy as a means of control for a while and it’s coming closer to home for us.
‘British partners have long faced challenges from rivals seeking to undermine our alliance.
‘Today we’re seeing it in the Caribbean. Some islands seem to be close to swapping a symbolic Queen in Windsor for a real and demanding emperor in Beijing.’
In the past, China has been particularly generous with nations that have agreed to cut relations with Taiwan – a country in the East China Sea which Beijing claims as a province – and establish ties with Bejing instead.
In 2005, China rewarded the island of Grenada, which has an annual turnover of just $1.8billion, with a brand new $55million cricket stadium after it cut relations with Taiwan.
Similarly, in 2018, the Dominican Republic was received Chinese investments and loans thought to have topped $3billion after it also cut ties with Taipei.
Beijing has largely stepped away from vote-buying projects in recent years, however, and now largely focuses on economic deals aimed at providing work for its citizens, acquiring resources such as rare earth materials and food, and providing long-term trading and economic benefits.
In 2018, leaders from the region and South America – as part of a trading bloc known as CELAC – signed up to a 2019-2021 roadmap with China that aimed to deepen political and economic ties, including in trade, agriculture, infrastructure, and science and technology, among other areas.
More recently, a Chinese firm took full control of Jamaica Kingston Freeport in April this year, the island’s largest container port and one of the largest in the Caribbean.
China has also invested heavily in Cuba, helping to modernize the country’s second-largest port – Santiago de Cuba – with a new shipping terminal opening in 2019.
Chris Bennett, managing director of The Caribbean Council, a London-based trade organisation, told Mail Online: ‘Over the last 15 years, China has steadily acquired control of strategic assets necessary for its trading interests across the wider region.
‘It controls two of the largest container ports in the region, has acquired large amounts of land in Jamaica, Guyana and Suriname, multiple oil and gas blocs and large-scale mineral deposits of bauxite and gold.
‘By tying concessional finance to the use of Chinese contractors and Chinese imported labour, China has forced out many Western contractors who cannot compete with the cheap Chinese credit being offered.’
For example, British construction firm Kier was forced to exit both the Caribbean and Hong Kong three years ago, at an estimated loss of £72million, in part because of competition from China.
Meanwhile in Guyana – which China has taken a prominent interest in since large oil deposits were discovered there in 2014 – is currently accepting tenders to rebuild the Demerara Harbour Bridge in its capital, Georgetown.
Originally built with British assistance in the 1970s, seven of the 11 contracts that are now bidding for the rebuilding job are Chinese.
Barbados, meanwhile, is has received at least $490million, mostly as investment in the tourist sector, but is also thought to be benefiting from private deals.
The country has established beneficial tax deals with Beijing in recent years in an attempt to make itself a hub for Chinese financial firms looking to invest in South America.
In 2019, a permanent branch of Invest Barbados was established in Beijing to help attract this investment.
Also last year, Barbados signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China, making it part of the country’s Belt and Road initiative – otherwise known as the new Silk Road.
Left: Queen Elizabeth ll smiles with a young girl in Barbados on November 1, 1977. Right: The Queen on a walkabout during a visit to Bridgetown
The agreement promises development of Barbados’s shipping, aviation, infrastructure and agriculture sectors.
However, not everyone has welcomed China’s increased presence in the region. Trade and investment with the likes of Belize, St Lucia, St Kitts, Haiti and St Vincent is still non-existent, largely due to their recognising Taiwan.
Meanwhile resentment is also growing among locals who have seen large construction projects handed to Chinese labourers, under the terms of loan deals, starving them of income.
While most labourers return to China once the work is completed, some have stayed behind – establishing businesses, particularly in retail, which often out-compete locals, furthering the resentment.
Barbados has maintained strong relations with Britain even after gaining independence in 1966, but last week announced it would become a republic in 2021.
A speech written by Prime Minister Mia Mottley quoted the Caribbean island nation’s first premier Errol Barrow’s warning against ‘loitering on colonial premises’.
Buckingham Palace has said Barbados’ intention to remove the Queen as head of state and become a republic is a ‘matter’ for the Caribbean nation.
Reading the speech, Governor-General Dame Sandra Mason said: ‘The time has come to fully leave our colonial past behind. Barbadians want a Barbadian Head of State.
‘This is the ultimate statement of confidence in who we are and what we are capable of achieving.
‘Hence, Barbados will take the next logical step toward full sovereignty and become a Republic by the time we celebrate our 55th Anniversary of Independence.’
Asked to comment on the Commonwealth country’s plans a palace spokesman said: ‘This is a matter for the government and people of Barbados.’
Downing Street said it was a ‘decision for Barbados and the Government there’ but that Britain would continue to ‘enjoy a partnership’ with the Caribbean island nation as members of the Commonwealth.
A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘We obviously have a shared history and remain united with Barbados in terms of history, culture and language, and we will continue to have and enjoy a partnership with them as members of the Commonwealth.’
The country gained its independence from Britain in 1966, though the Queen remains its constitutional monarch.
In 1998, a Barbados constitutional review commission recommended republican status, and in 2015 Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said ‘we have to move from a monarchical system to a republican form of government in the very near future’.
Most Caribbean countries have kept formal links with the monarchy after achieving independence.
Barbados would join Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica and Guyana if it proceeds with its plan to become a republic.
Jamaica has also flagged such a transition, with Prime Minister Andrew Holness saying it is a priority of his government, but has yet to achieve it.
Barbados took another step towards independence from the UK in 2003 when it replaced the London-based Judicial Committee of the Privy Council with the Caribbean Court of Justice, located in Trinidad and Tobago’s Port of Spain, as its final appeals court.
Former Prime Minister Owen Arthur promoted the idea of a referendum on becoming a republic in 2005, however the vote was called off due to concerns raised by the Electoral and Boundaries Commission.
Barbados: The country’s colonial history
The Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative but came at great social cost
Barbados was one of the oldest English settlements in the West Indies, being surpassed only by Saint Kitts.
The countries’ historical ties date back to the 17th century and involve settlement, post-colonialism and modern bilateral relations.
Since Barbados gained its independence in 1966, the nations have continued to share ties through the Commonwealth, with the Queen as Monarch.
The Barbadian Parliament is the third oldest in the entire Commonwealth and the island continues to practice the Westminster style of government.
Many of the historic Anglican churches and plantation houses across the island show the influence of English architecture.
In 1627, 80 Englishmen aboard the William and John landed on the Caribbean island and founded Jamestown (close to today’s Holetown), in the name of King James I.
The early settlers struggled to develop a profitable export crop and faced difficulties in maintaining supplies from Europe.
However, the Sugar Revolution, the introduction of sugar cane from Dutch Brazil, in the 1640s was highly lucrative and over the next decade more than two thirds of English emigres to the Americas went to Barbados.
But while this shift to sugar yielded huge profits, it came at a great social cost. Thousands of West African slaves were shipped across the Atlantic to work the plantations and workers suffered from low wages and minimal social services.
It is estimated that between 1627 to 1807, some 387,000 Africans were shipped to the island against their will and the country shifted from having a majority white population to a majority black population.
On 28th August 1833, the British Government passed the Slavery Abolition Act, and slaves across the British empire were granted emancipation.
Barbados remained a British colony until internal autonomy was granted in 1961.
The country became fully independent on November 30, 1966, during a time when the country’s economy was expanding and diversifying.
Since then, the Barbadian Parliament has remained a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy, which is modeled on the British Westminster system of government.
In 2008, British exports to Barbados stood at £38 million, making it Britain’s fourth-largest export market in the region.
In recent years a growing number of British nationals have been relocating to Barbados to live, with polls showing that British nationals make up 75–85 per cent of the Barbados second home market.
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Herd immunity wouldn’t work without overwhelming the NHS, study finds
Relying on the herd immunity strategy in Britain wouldn’t work because the risk of overwhelming the NHS would be too great, a study suggests.
Researchers modelled how the controversial strategy, which was pondered by the UK government in March, would play out in different scenarios.
They found letting the virus run rampant with no preventative rules — the simplest way to achieve herd immunity without a vaccine — would lead to too many hospital admissions. Britain would need around 300,000 beds to cope — almost triple the current capacity in hospitals, the team estimated.
This would put too much strain on the health service and may lead to excess deaths among non-virus patients, such as those with cancer and heart issues.
The study found simultaneously achieving the strategy and protecting hospitals would require keeping the reproduction ‘R’ rate at around 1.2 for ‘years’. This would be an ‘impractical’ balancing act because it would require constant tinkering with social distancing rules for long periods of time, researchers said.
And when the R is above the dreaded number of one — meaning infected patients pass the potentially life-threatening disease on to at least one person, on average — the epidemic still risks spiralling out of control.
The team’s model also found it was ‘possible’ to suppress the virus ‘with plausible levels of social distancing over a period of months’.
Writing in the paper, the University of California scientists warn: ‘Our study finds that achieving herd immunity without overwhelming hospital capacity leaves little room for error.
‘Intervention levels must be carefully manipulated in an adaptive manner for an extended period… Such fine-tuning of social distancing renders this strategy impractical.
‘Various governments have entertained the idea of achieving herd immunity through natural infection as a means of ending the long-term threat of Covid-19. This has provoked alarm in sections of the public health community. Our work confirms that this alarm is well founded.’
But health chiefs in Sweden, one of the only countries to remain open throughout the pandemic and avoid using a crude lockdown, say the tactic has worked for them, which has allowed people to keep their freedoms.
Researchers modelled various lockdown scenarios and found that simultaneously achieving the strategy and protecting hospitals would require keeping the reproduction ‘R’ rate at around 1.2 for ‘years’
Herd immunity wouldn’t work because the risk of overwhelming the NHS would be too great, a study suggests (file)
Herd immunity is achieved when a disease runs out of room and is no longer able to spread because enough of the population have been exposed to it.
Experts say between 60 and 70 per cent of communities need to get infected, or be vaccinated against a disease, for the tactic to work.
Expert claims Sweden now has ‘herd immunity’ against coronavirus
Sweden has beaten coronavirus by refusing to shut the country down and achieving herd immunity, according to an expert.
The Scandinavian nation was the only country in Europe not to introduce strict lockdown measures at the start of the pandemic.
But scientists believe that this may have helped it avoid a second wave of Covid-19 as it continues to record its lowest number of cases since March – with just 28 infections per 100,000 people.
This figure is less than half of the UK’s own infection rate of 69 per 100,000 people.
He told Denmark’s Politiken newspaper: ‘There is some evidence that the Swedes have built up a degree of immunity to the virus which, along with what else they are doing to stop the spread, is enough to control the disease.
‘Perhaps, the epidemic is over there.’
He said that the virus may now have run out of steam.
He added: ‘That is what they have said.
‘On the positive side, they may now be finished with the epidemic.’
Sweden was initially criticised at the start of the outbreak after recording a spike in its mortality rates which was five times that of Denmark and ten times that of Norway and Finland.
Number of deaths per 24 hours peaked in April at 115 with more than half in care homes.
But its seven-day average for coronavirus-related deaths is now zero.
The UK pondered herd immunity as its main strategy in March, but the tactic never became official policy.
News that ministers were looking into the strategy sparked a furore because it signalled they were prepared to allow millions people to get infected, and for hundreds of thousands to inevitably die, in order for it to work.
The new study was done by the University of California, Davis and published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States (PNAS).
Researchers used mathematical modelling to simulate the different scenarios needed to achieve herd immunity.
Using the first wave of the pandemic in the UK as a benchmark, they inputted data about how fast the coronavirus spreads when left unchecked and the virus’s mortality and hospitalisation rates.
The team found that, in the absence of any intervention measures, the disease would spread rapidly through the UK and infect 77 per cent of people.
While this would likely lead to herd immunity, it would also cause about 410,000 deaths — including 350,000 over the age of 60 — and cause hospitals to be completely overwhelmed.
They said social distancing by older individuals and the public adhering to self-isolation rules would also lead to a ‘much smaller outbreak’ among over-60s.
School closures also help to keep cases down and reopening them too soon may trigger a second wave, the researchers added.
They wrote: ‘Our modeling indicates that, if sustained, such control measures can lead to the suppression of Covid-19 in the United Kingdom by reducing R to below one.’
The academics looked at various lockdown scenarios to see if herd immunity could be reached by tinkering with schools, workplaces or amenities.
They took into account different adherence rates to self-isolation, social distancing, among other factors that can change the course of an outbreak.
The model was based on old data analysing how quickly outbreaks grow in different settings, and how they contribute to the epidemic overall.
But the results showed that the NHS would be pushed to the brink in most instances where the R rate is above 1.2.
They wrote: ‘Attempting to achieve herd immunity while simultaneously mitigating the impact of Covid-19 on hospital burden is an extremely challenging task.
‘In order to ensure the hospital burden does not exceed levels comparable with that of the UK in April 2020, R needs to be reduced from its initial value (assumed to be 2.3) to about 1.2).
‘Due to the fine margins (in terms of control effectiveness) between successful disease suppression and overwhelming hospitals, making herd immunity the primary objective (rather than applying maximal social distancing and aiming for suppression) is not supported by our modelling.’
Hospital capacity was modelled at the average burden in April, during the height of the pandemic, when around 18,000 infected patients were in beds.
Scientists insist models are not always accurate and are only designed to be helpful to guide policies.
It comes after emails released today showed Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty asked for help to ‘calm down’ angry academics after facing backlash over the herd immunity approach discussed in March.
The top experts, who’ve been steering Britain through the Covid-19 crisis, were hounded by fellow scientists for comments they made about the controversial tactic at the start of the pandemic.
On at least three occasions, Sir Patrick Vallance, England’s chief scientific adviser, said the aim is to ‘build up some degree of herd immunity’ — when a disease runs out of room and can no longer spread because enough of the population have been exposed to it.
Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Chris Whitty faced backlash over the ‘herd immunity’ strategy in March and asked for help to ‘calm down’ angry academics, emails show
The comments sparked a furore because it signalled the Government was prepared to allow millions people to get infected and inevitably die in order to successfully achieve the strategy.
No 10 was even forced to deny herd immunity was the strategy after Boris Johnson’s chief aide Dominic Cummings reportedly confirmed the plan at a private event back in February, allegedly saying it was ‘too bad’ if it meant ‘some pensioners die’.
Emails obtained by the BBC reveal the panic among top advisers in reaction to the outpouring of criticism. In one email sent to a colleague in March, Sir Patrick said: ‘Anything you can do to calm our academic friends down over herd immunity would be greatly appreciated.’
Professor Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, also raged in emails that he was ‘misinterpreted’ after an unnamed senior politician claimed they had conversations in January that ‘were absolutely focused on herd immunity’.
While the majority of scientists have shied away from publicly endorsing herd immunity as a viable strategy, some believe it is the only route out of the current crisis without a vaccine.
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