Covid: Around 80% of population needs vaccine to achieve herd immunity, Sweden's state scientist says

Around 80 or 90% of the population needs to be vaccinated in order to achieve herd immunity, a leading state epidemiologist has said.

Speaking to ITV's Peston Show, the State Epidemiologist of Sweden, Dr Anders Tegnell, said: "I initially thought 60/70% of the population needed to be vaccinated but with how Covid-19 behaves it needs to be about 10 or 20% more to be really sure of herd immunity."

Mr Tegnell also described the current restrictions which are in place in Sweden as their cases, deaths and hospitalisations are currently following the downward trend.

He said: "Restaurants are open but there are restrictions in place, you can only have four people at a table, there are no huge gatherings.

"We also tell employers to make it possible for people to work from home. There have been a 40% reduction in people working in the workplace which makes a huge difference to the spread of the disease," he added.

Widespread working from home was one of the biggest behavioural changes of 2020. Credit: Marta Filipczyk/Unsplash

When asked how worried he is about mutations Mr Tegnell said: "Very worried. We have found about 10% of the cases in Sweden are from the UK variant and a very small amount of cases of the South African variant."

He also said things across the Western world will become like normal but it won't be realistically until next year as it "really depends on the vaccine and how effective it is".

"I think we spend so much time comparing against other countries but actually there are so many differences this can be counterproductive," he added.

Tory MP David Davis said: "This is going to be a struggle until the summer and then we have to reset and we are just going to have to accept that."

Meanwhile, Health Minister Nadine Dorries appeared on ITV's Peston Show to talk about mental health provisions in place for children at school.

Current school closures could affect children's mental health for years to come, experts have warned. Credit: PA

When asked whether she would rather children go back to school earlier than March 8, she said: "I want children to go back to school when it is safe to do so."

She said those with mental health issues and young women particularly those who are aged 15 to 26 are the ones struggling the most.

"We're going into a prolonged period, we know that moving forward and what people have coped with so far including lockdowns, not being able to see their loved ones as they would normally - we are preparing for and aware there will problems further down the line."

She continued to praise her team and the government's handling of mental health during the pandemic.

However the Labour MP for Brent Central, Dawn Butler, said: "It's really sad the health minister just doesn't get it.

"There are huge gaps in mental health provisions and the government need to get a grip on this."