COVID-19 told through football (IV): Herd immunity

As children, in the schoolyard, we played ‘the plague’. If you were carrying the plague, you could pass it touching someone else. Then, two infected were hunting healthy guys. As the courtyard was small and crowded, it was very easy to pass the plague, touching those who were playing and crashing into those who did not. The best option to avoid accidentally getting stung was to play a different game in a corner of the school. My friends and I often cornered to play football. Since playing with balls in the yard was not allowed, we used a plastic bag full of papers. At that age, sports games are not so much sport as fantasy.

—I am Butragueño.

— I pick Bakero, the one with the goal against Kaiserslautern.

— Okay but I’m a Caminero, even he plays for Atlético and we mix teams.

Once the alter ego was established, we played until the bag irreparably fell apart.

During a pandemic, we also need to ‘play’ living in a corner, and we should not run from one place to another, avoiding to pass the plague too quickly, for two reasons: (i) if many people have the plague at the same time, there will be no enough beds at the Intensive Care Units or respirators for the sickest people, and (ii) we give time to vaccines and drugs to arrive, and to people to activate their immune system against SARS-Cov-2, becoming resistant to the virus, and thus they cannot get infected or spread the virus.

The latter is what experts know as ‘herd immunity’, and is what the English Prime Minister intended to achieve as the main goal. Some leaders do not resist being ‘special’ even in circumstances of global alarm. After his initial strategy, Boris Johnson backed down and recommended that people stay home and not go to the popular British pubs. His theory, in a simplistic way, defends that it is better to assume the death of a million people (mostly elderly) than to affect everyone’s economy. This idea was not considered brilliant by the British royal family, and 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth II has locked herself in Windsor Castle. As a funny ending of such a frightening idea, Boris Johnson went into the UCI due to a complicated COVID-19.

Applied to soccer, a “herd immunity” would mean to set high termination clauses and increase the salaries for most of the players on the squad, at the cost of firing the team’s veterans. However, is it worth being part of a team that doesn’t respect its own veterans or part of a nation that doesn’t protect its elders?