Coronavirus herd immunity better for Saudi Arabia than lockdown: Ex-health minister

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There is “absolutely no way” to contain the coronavirus outbreak except by living with it, Saudi Arabia’s former health minister Hamad al-Mane said in an article published in Okaz newspaper.

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Like most governments across the world, Saudi Arabia has currently imposed various restrictions on movement aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected 21,402 in the Kingdom so far.

However, al-Mane is the latest voice to join a growing shift in global public opinion in favor of lifting lockdowns, with governments beginning to lift restrictions that they realize they cannot keep in place for long enough to develop a vaccine.

“There is absolutely no way to contain [the coronavirus] except by living with it, of course while taking all necessary precautions and gradually returning [to normal],” said al-Mane.

Also read: Saudi Arabia partially lifts coronavirus curfew nationwide, Mecca lockdown remains

Herd immunity less harmful than lockdown

Rather than continue lockdown indefinitely, al-Mane said that “herd immunity” is the long-term solution – when a majority of a population has caught the disease and can therefore no longer catch it again, making it a normal part of everyday life.

While herd immunity does have its consequences, he said, it far less harmful than the consequences of a complete shutdown.

Halting all economic activity for a long period of time and putting strict restrictions on movement will have dire results, he added.

“The consequences of a complete lockdown and people not being able to leave their homes for long periods of time will be seen on the mental health of the both adults and children. This will cause family problems, will lead to disputes and high divorce rates,” according to al-Mane.

“Not everyone has the ability to handle staying at home for a long period of time.”

The former health minister also pointed out that people have been living normally with the presence of the flu, known as influenza.

“In Saudi Arabia alone about 14,700 people die yearly, 1,225 monthly, of the regular flu,” he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills between 290,000 to 650,000 people globally every year.

According to al-Mane, fear is more dangerous for people than the coronavirus.

He warned that the complete closure of businesses and the strain the virus has put on the economy incites fear in people. This fear, he added, could cause a person’s immune system to weaken and make them more susceptible to getting infected.

“Severe fear causes a person’s immunity to weaken because of an increase in cortisone in the body, which makes people vulnerable to the virus in addition to the panic that is already controlling people,” he said.

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