The UK is in a grim place when even Donald Trump now has a more enlightened attitude to the crisis than our own Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. Trump on herd immunity: "well you know it’s a concept, it’s a concept - if you don’t mind death."— James Kelly (@JamesKelly) April 1, 2020
Among the dwindling band of enthusiasts for the "take it on the chin" / "herd immunity" approach, a favourite refrain is that it doesn't actually matter if an unimaginable number of people die, because (supposedly) "they would have died anyway". Incredibly, even the BBC tried that line the other week. The idea is that many of the deaths are elderly people with severe health conditions who would otherwise have had an extremely short life expectancy. Now let's be clear what we're talking about here: Imperial College estimate that without a full-on suppression strategy, around 250,000 people would die of the virus in the UK, and of those, around half to two-thirds "might" otherwise have died of another cause at some point this year - although of course that leaves open the possibility that they could have lived on for many months, and no price tag can really be put on that.
But even if those people are completely excluded, that means the real total of excess deaths would be "only" somewhere between 83,000 and 125,000. As we've seen, many of those victims would be relatively young, and a significant minority would have no underlying health conditions. We're talking about people who can reasonably expect to live a great many years or decades in the absence of a herd immunity strategy.
For comparison, the death toll from the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 is estimated to have been somewhere between 90,000 and 146,000.