COVID-19 expert claims told to “correct his views”

Covid numbers in Andalucia on Thursday, March 24. Image: Pixabay

A senior epidemiologist and adviser to the government during the Covid-19 crises, claims that he was told to “correct his views” after he criticised what he thought was an “implausible” graph shown at an official briefing.

The Edinburgh University academic, Professor Mark Woolhouse, is deeply critical of the use of lockdown measures saying that “plain common sense” was a “casualty of the crisis”.

Speaking to Sky News he apologised to his daughter and her generation who he said: “has been so badly served by mine.”

Prof Woolhouse believes that closing schools was “morally wrong, and he is concerned about the possible “big-brother” approach to the control of information about Covid-19.

In stating his concerns about the “big brother” approach he said that he was told to watch what he was saying following a briefing given by Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) Sir Patrick Vallance on 21 September 2020.

At the time Sir Patrick said that they thought the number of infections was doubling roughly every seven days and that fifty thousand cases a day were being predicted by mid-October.

“There was a lot wrong with the projection,” Prof Woolhouse says. He calculated the doubling period as every 10 or 11 days, rather than seven, and, in his opinion, there was “no reason to expect the epidemic to accelerate suddenly”. Part of his criticism is that if you use an an exponential projection it will give you any number you like if you run it for long enough.

Continuing he said that he felt the predictions were “so implausible” that he was concerned about a loss of scientific “credibility”.

At the time he commented through the Science Media Centre that it was highly unlikely that the UK would see so many reported cases per day by mid-October and “As it turned out, we barely reached half that,” according to Prof Woolhouse.

He said his: “objections did not go down well” and “After a flurry of emails I was invited to ‘correct’ my comments.”

He says the criticism did not end there: “A couple of weeks later I was asked to give evidence to a House of Commons Select Committee. This generated another flurry of emails over an October weekend from two senior government scientists concerned that I might criticise the CSA’s graph before the MPs.”

He is angry as he insists it: “wasn’t my views that needed correcting, it was the projections”.

Despite all of his criticism Prof Woolhouse supported the first lockdown, in March 2020, partly because there was “no other option on the table”.

But he feels that the seriousness of the virus was dealt a very ordinary response when it needed an extraordinary one. He says that there was a lack of debate about the use of lockdown measures “from the very beginning”, and England’s emergence from its final lockdown, last year, was based on “dates not data.”

He is critical of the Imperial College model which in his view “wasn’t remotely realistic” and anyone who supported the first lockdown on that basis “was misled”.

He also went on to criticise the media who he said “cannot resist” treating a “worst case scenario” as a “prediction.”

Prof Woolhouse thinks that lateral flow testing should have been used more quickly with the evidence suggesting in his view, that they were more useful in stemming the transmission and in changing behaviours.

No comment has been received from the authorities or colleagues involved in controlling the spread of the virus in response to the COVID-19 expert claims he was told to “correct his views”

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]


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