Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:50 pm on 22nd October 2020.

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Photo of Nadine Dorries Nadine Dorries Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care) 4:50 pm, 22nd October 2020

Possibly; the hon. Gentleman is in a very difficult position now. I say well done to him for taking apart the Great Barrington declaration. I will now not go into it, as he did an excellent job.

Turning to herd immunity, without a vaccine how do we attain herd immunity? With no knowledge of immunity from coronavirus, how do we obtain herd immunity? I will share with the House that I was diagnosed with coronavirus on 7 March, I had a severe dose and my antibodies had disappeared 12 weeks later. I am no longer immune to coronavirus. That is not just my story; it is the story of many, many people. Many people who were donating their plasma post-coronavirus for convalescent therapy were told quite quickly, “We no longer need your plasma because you do not have any antibodies left.” Work is going on into immunity, and we have not reached a conclusive position yet, but I can speak from my own experience and from the experiences that we are hearing about, and if people do not have long-term antibodies and we have no vaccine, there is no such thing as herd immunity. I say that again because it is the truth.

On the comments about the measures we are putting in place, how restrictive they are and social distancing, all I can say—and this relates to the number of deaths in hospitals—is that back in March no one was wearing face coverings and no social distancing was being complied with by the public, and the rate of infection was doubling every three to four days. Now, it is doubling every seven to 14 days, because the public are wearing masks, they are hand washing and they are socially distancing, and that means that when someone contracts coronavirus, they contract a smaller viral load, which is enabling doctors to treat those patients once they reach an intensive care unit. In ICUs, people are now living, not dying, but we still need the ICUs and we still need the ICU beds in which to treat those people in order that they can live. The fundamental purpose of every measure we take is to protect the NHS and to keep those beds in ICUs, so that they are there to treat people and to keep people alive.

I described this to someone today who argued with me that face masks and coverings are unnecessary. If people are in the space of someone with no facemask—I will use a scale of one to 100—they will breathe in 100 droplets and a full viral load, but when someone has a mask on it is much less. This is not a scientific experiment; it is my own analogy, but the figure is probably 10. Dr Allin-Khan knows this much better than I do, and can confirm or deny it. Therefore, with a mask, people’s viral load is lower and it is far easier to treat them once they arrive in hospital at A&E and are transferred to an ICU, and there is a huge chance of success. That is what we are seeing in action now in our hospitals. If we all abandon our face coverings, stop social distancing and stop hand washing, we will be back to where we were in March, when the virus was doubling every three to four days.

My hon. Friend Sir Christopher Chope mentioned Sweden, but an article in The BMJ—a research study—concluded that Sweden and the US are the only two countries that are failing to reduce their numbers of deaths. In fact, it is far more accurate to compare Sweden with its Nordic neighbours. Sweden has 586 deaths per 1 million people, while its neighbour Norway has 279, so I am not quite sure why Sweden would be cited as a country of success.[This section has been corrected on 24 November 2020, column 8MC — read correction]