March 25, 2020

I HOPE THIS IS TRUE, BUT I WOULDN’T TAKE ANY ACTION BASED ON IT: New Oxford study suggests millions of people may have already built up coronavirus immunity.

The Oxford research suggests the pandemic is in a later stage than previously thought and estimates the virus has already infected at least millions of people worldwide. In the United Kingdom, which the study focuses on, half the population would have already been infected. If accurate, that would mean transmission began around mid-January and the vast majority of cases presented mild or no symptoms.

The head of the study, professor Sunetra Gupta, an Oxford theoretical epidemiologist, said she still supports the U.K.’s decision to shut down the country to suppress the virus even if her research winds up being proven correct. But she also doesn’t appear to be a big fan of the work done by the Imperial College team. “I am surprised that there has been such unqualified acceptance of the Imperial model,” she said.

If her work is accurate, that would likely mean a large swath of the population has built up resistance to the virus. Theoretically, then, social restrictions could ease sooner than anticipated. What needs to be done now, Gupta said, is a whole lot of antibody testing to figure out who may have contracted the virus.

Before I’d rely on this to loosen anything, I’d want to see that lots of people had antibodies, and that those antibodies were reliably protective.

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