France: Let young people develop immunity naturally

Infectious disease specialist sparks controversy with comments in interview

3 August 2020
By Connexion journalist

Young people in France should be allowed to spread coronavirus among themselves to develop 'collective immunity', an infectious disease specialist has said.

Professor Éric Caumes, head of the infectious diseases department at the Pitié Salpêtrière hospital in Paris, said this would prevent a problem that will explode when students head back to school or university in September.

But his views prompted an immediate backlash from his medical peers.

Prof Caumes believes that young people "will be a reservoir of contamination", by the time they go back to school, leaving France facing, "an unmanageable epidemic" if they do not develop some level of "collective immunity".

“It may not be politically correct, but I think more and more that we should let them contaminate each other, provided that they do not see their parents and their grandparents”, he said in an interview with Le Parisien, in which he recognised that coronavirus can make people of all ages seriously ill.

It will be difficult for parents to make their children wear, "a mask everywhere and forbid them to gather, especially in summer".

"By letting them become contaminated, they will participate in collective immunity and it will be more important at the start of the school year, in schools and universities," he said.

Asked to respond to his comments, epidemiologist Catherine Hill told BFMTV that letting young people 'contaminate each other' was 'an extraordinarily bad idea'.

“It is a complete ignorance of the relationships between people, in the city, in space. People under 30 will meet people over 30 … This story does not hold water at all.”

Prof Caumes, who has called for automatic quarantine for anyone returning to France from other countries, said that authorities will have no choice but to reintroduce strict confinement rules in the Mayenne, the department with the highest rate of infection.

“The problem is that we are always running after the epidemic instead of anticipating. This virus is obviously too intelligent for Europeans, with the exception of the Germans,” he said.

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