In forest management, a controlled burn is “used for hazard reduction [to] decrease the likelihood of serious hotter fires” [W]. In backfiring strategy, “firefighters attempt to halt the advance of a wildfire (…) by burning up fuel in its path” [H].

Could the same strategy be used to fight the Coronavirus?

E.g. in my native country (Norway), most hotels are now closed. If, for the sake of the argument, we assume that 1) humans become immune after having fallen sick to the virus and 2) people under 25 do not become seriously ill, what is the counterargument to inviting people in the age group 15-25 to mass isolate in said hotels for e.g. 1 month, for the purpose of kickstarting herd immunity?

(In the meantime, they would also be off the streets, presumably posing less of a risk to the more vulnerable population, and students would have a chance of colocating.)

Article discussing the matter (in Norwegian) hypothesizing that a controlled burn could decrease the death toll in Norway from 60.000 to 2.000 individuals.

  • 1
    I think your second assumption is incorrect. People in that age range have died.
    – user253751
    Mar 19 '20 at 10:04
  • Even if the herd immunity argument doesn't apply. Controlled and Isolated exposure should flatten the curve, allow recovered people to function in society again. Mar 26 '20 at 15:32

Computer simulations have been carried in London, UK, on a proposal to let the virus loose on the population as a whole and isolate those at risk.

But the models showed that there would be a huge death toll (over 2,000,000 for the USA) adopting this approach. Younger people survive better with full medical support, but that does not mean they don't get very sick. (At least one 14 year old child has died, and half the ICU beds in France are occupied by people in their 40s. ) And this strategy would overwhelm the health system.

A new analysis by immunologists at Imperial College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine of the impact of the coronavirus in Italy suggested that up to 30 percent of patients hospitalized with the virus would require intensive care treatment. Those numbers, if repeated in the U.K., would quickly overwhelm Britain’s state-run National Health Service.


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