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Fact check: Self-isolation measures are still necessary for people who have already had COVID-19

A misleading meme is being shared on social media that suggests British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s self-quarantine period is suspicious.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The meme shows a picture of Johnson alongside the words: “HE SAID… ‘HERD IMMUNITY’, HE ALSO SAID HE HAD THE CORONAVIRUS. NOW HE IS SELF-ISOLATING AFTER MP TESTS POSITIVE. SOMETHING DOESN’T QUITE ADD UP?” (here).

Social media users left comments such as: “Aey he’s telling lies again” and “I think B. Johnson needs to retrain for a new occupation as a writer – “fiction novels” might be a good start. He’s so good at spinning tales…”

Johnson needed to self-isolate after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, even though he caught the novel coronavirus earlier this year (here).

Johnson will isolate for 14 days despite testing negative in accordance with government rules because it can take that long for symptoms to appear (here) and here).

It is not suspicious that Boris Johnson is self-isolating despite having had coronavirus and discussed herd immunity.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines herd immunity as “a concept used for vaccination, in which a population can be protected from a certain virus if a threshold of vaccination is reached.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, British scientists suggested that people would naturally develop immunity to the novel coronavirus over time.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance Vallance said in March: “We think this virus is likely to be one that comes back year on year and becomes like a seasonal virus and communities will become immune to it …60% is the sort of figure you need to get herd immunity” (here).

However, scientific consensus now believes that herd immunity to COVID-19 will only be achieved by mass vaccination.

The WHO says: “Herd immunity is achieved by protecting people from a virus, not by exposing them to it.

“Attempts to reach ‘herd immunity’ through exposing people to a virus are scientifically problematic and unethical. Letting COVID-19 spread through populations, of any age or health status will lead to unnecessary infections, suffering and death.” (here)

This means lockdowns and social-distancing measures are needed to control the virus until vaccines are available. People who have had COVID-19 still need to abide by these rules.

“We are still learning about immunity to COVID-19. Most people who are infected with COVID-19 develop an immune response within the first few weeks, but we don’t know how strong or lasting that immune response is, or how it differs for different people, ”says the WHO (here).

People have also been infected with COVID-19 for a second time (here , here).

Reuters reported on Oct. 13 that an 89-year-old Dutch woman died after contracting COVID-19 for a second time. Dutch media said this was the first known case worldwide of a death after SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus reinfection (here).

“It is becoming increasingly clear that reinfections are possible, but we can’t yet know how common this will be,” Simon Clarke, a microbiology expert at Britain’s Reading University, told Reuters (here).

VERDICT

Misleading. The fact Johnson discussed herd immunity, fell ill with COVID-19 and is now self-isolating is not grounds for suspicion. Scientists believe it is possible to be reinfected with coronavirus and mass vaccination is the only way to achieve herd immunity.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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