As London and the entire South East of the UK was plunged into a fresh lockdown over the weekend, scores of countries have banned all travel to and from the UK, but scientists there are demanding to see any evidence that there is a 70% more contagious mutant strain of COVID, having not been shown anything by the government.
The Daily Mail reports that Carl Heneghan, Professor of Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care, has expressed scepticism over the 70 per cent figure.
“I’ve been doing this job for 25 years and I can tell you can’t establish a quantifiable number in such a short time frame,” Heneghan said.
“Every expert is saying it’s too early to draw such an inference,” the professor added.
“I would want to have very clear evidence rather than ‘we think it’s more transmissible’ so we can see if it is or not,” Heneghan continued.
“It has massive implications, it’s causing fear and panic, but we should not be in this situation when the Government is putting out data that is unquantifiable,” the professor further urged.
“They are fitting the data to the evidence. They see cases rising and they are looking for evidence to explain it,” Heneghan declared.
The ‘mutant strain’ has been circulating since September, according to the government, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson using it to justify literally cancelling Christmas.
However, Professor Heneghan emphasised that if this strain really is that much more contagious “we should be locking down the whole country”.
Within minutes of Johnson making the announcement that London and the South East would be locked down at midnight on Saturday, thousands of people crammed into train stations in an attempt to escape to other parts of the country.
While people in London are unable to travel, hundreds of flights from everywhere continued to land at and take off from the city’s airports over the weekend.
The data the government has on the ‘new strain’ off COVID comes from analysis by advisory body The New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).
No one has seen the data, with the Prim Minster noting it is “early data, “subject to review” but “It’s the best we have at the moment.”
Announcing the previously non-existent ‘Tier four’ restriction level, Johnson added it was happening because of a “change in the science”:
Some conservative MPs, who were already rebelling against the tier 3 lockdown, have called for all the scientific evidence the government has to be made public.
The government was accused of being ‘bounced by the science’, with former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith noting that Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance are ‘stepping back into the shadows when it suits them’.
“‘Why did they not alert ministers to the dangers earlier? Especially when, as we now know, scientists learnt about this mutation back in September,” Duncan-Smith asked.
Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said “it does have all the characteristics of the Government being bounced by the science, as it was right at the beginning of the arrangements when we first went into lockdown last March.”
“The arrangements for Christmas were explicitly voted on by Parliament. If they’re to be changed then in my view, Parliament should vote again,” Swayne added.
“Parliament voted explicitly for a certain set of arrangements, it seems to be perfectly proper therefore that Parliament should be consulted when those are changed, irrespective of the Government acting in an emergency, nevertheless it’s perfectly proper to recall Parliament at the beginning of this week to at least ratify those changes,” the MP continued.
Swayne noted that MPs haven’t even been given any evidence to justify the heightened restrictions, and that a third of the country was effectively imprisoned via a press conference.
“Explain to us – we are after all a democracy, explain to the elected representatives the evidence that they have and why they’ve reached this decision,” Swayned emphasised.
The MP charged that the government purposefully waited until parliament had started its break for Christmas before making the announcement, in order to avoid a rebellion.
“They’ve been looking at it since September and how convenient when Parliament went into recess on Thursday suddenly they were then able to produce this revelation,” Swayne noted.
“Let’s see the evidence then, let’s have Parliament back and show us and convince us, come clean,” he urged, adding “I want Parliament to be recalled so we can scrutinise properly in a democracy decisions that are being made which affect our economy radically and our liberty.”