The anti-lockdown petition, which has been supported by 4,000 international scientists from universities including Oxford, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Cambridge and Sussex, is calling for a herd immunity approach for young people.
Known as 'the Great Barrington declaration', after the Massachusetts town in which it was created, the plan (which has also been signed by 40,000 members of the public) has caused quite the divide among scientists, with some supporting the idea while others slammed its approach.
It claims that current lockdown policies are producing a severe and devastating impact on public health - for example, deteriorating mental health and fewer cancer screenings.
Instead, the declaration suggests young people should be able to continue as normal, in order to create a herd immunity, while those who are most at risk can isolate.
"As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing Covid-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection," the declaration explains.
"Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health. The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health - leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden.
"Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice. Keeping these measures in place until a vaccine is available will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed.
"... We know that all populations will eventually reach herd immunity - i.e. the point at which the rate of new infections is stable - and that this can be assisted by (but is not dependent upon) a vaccine.
"Our goal should therefore be to minimise mortality and social harm until we reach herd immunity... Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal.
"... "Schools and universities should be open for in-person teaching. Extracurricular activities, such as sports, should be resumed. Young low-risk adults should work normally, rather than from home. Restaurants and other businesses should open.
"Arts, music, sport and other cultural activities should resume. People who are more at risk may participate if they wish, while society as a whole enjoys the protection conferred upon the vulnerable by those who have built up herd immunity."
Despite its support from leading scientists, the approach has also been widely criticised. It comes as the leader of the NHS in England, Sir Simon Stevens, described the idea of shielding those over 65 as "age based apartheid".
Meanwhile, Prof Rossman, of the University of Kent pointed out that it's still not clear whether herd immunity is possible to achieve. He also added that the declaration is purely focussed on risk of death from Covid-19, whereas it's now becoming increasingly clear that young people are experiencing a so-called debilitating illness known as 'long Covid'.
Prof James Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute, and of the University of Oxford, added: "The main signatories include many accomplished scientists and I read it with interest.
"I will not be signing it however. The declaration risks the same error we have seen with the UK's track trace and isolate scheme - one can promise a scheme that is very easy to describe but is hard to deliver."
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