“Your position seems to be that shielding only the vulnerable is the best strategy, but it wouldn’t be fair to “to impose severe restrictions on them while the rest of society continued with their normal lives relatively unimpeded.” Well, why not make it voluntary? Why not let those vulnerable through age or underlying health conditions choose whether or not they are shielded?”
Well, yes, that’s one of the things that need to be thought through more carefully.
Letting the virus spread through the population naturally would massively increase its prevalence, making it much harder to avoid. Unless the elderly and vulnerable have an isolation booth at home (like ‘the Boy in the Plastic Bubble‘) attended by people trained in clinical procedures for infection control, it wouldn’t be feasible for them to effectively evade the highly prevalent virus. The predictable result of such a scheme would be a huge increase in hospital admissions, ICU referrals and mortuary demand.
The social implications of isolating the vulnerable at home would be far-reaching. An elderly gent with a heart condition near me was so terrified of contracting the virus that he insisted on everyone else in his social bubble taking extra precautions: no shopping, no entering other buildings (even to pick up prescriptions), no meeting other people indoors or outdoors. Delivered packages had to be sprayed and left untouched for 48–72 hours. He didn’t allow anyone in his household to go back to work after furlough. It put a lot of emotional pressure on his family (on whom he is partially dependent). Ultimately anyone who declined would have to move out, because he owns the family home. So his extended family had to comply with much stricter rules than required by law in order to keep him effectively shielded. It caused a lot of strife, with a son trying unsuccessfully to make arrangements to move out. That’s the kind of social upheaval that would arise throughout the country with a voluntary “focused protection” scheme.
Perhaps, as some have suggested, old and clinically vulnerable people should be encouraged to move into sheltered housing and gated communities, out of the way of society? That kind of social segregation scheme has rarely turned out well. Should BAME people (who are at a significantly higher risk) also be encouraged to segregate too? And what if the virus breached the barriers: we’ve seen the carnage in care homes.
As noted before, we don’t yet know how effective the strategy of acquired herd immunity would be in any case. There’s no data on the duration of persistence of antibodies. And the “healthy” working age population would hardly escape unscathed. People with undiagnosed conditions would be very susceptible to serious complications. And we’re still documenting and monitoring the emergence of ‘Long Covid’, which seems to be much more common than first thought.
That’s just a quick glance at the problems with the Great Barrington Declaration. Here are some other expert opinions: https://www.sciencemediacentre.org/expert-reaction-to-barrington-declaration-an-open-letter-arguing-against-lockdown-policies-and-for-focused-protection/
If you know of a workable scheme to isolate the entire population of elderly and vulnerable people effectively, with the level of protection required for highly infectious diseases, then please elaborate.