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Farewell Science

July 18, 2020 3:53 PM
pfat (Thanks to Renee Fisher for sharing their work on Unsplash.)Throughout the pandemic one thing has been constant, the Government mantra that whatever they were doing was guided by the science. This has frayed a little recently when Sir Patrick Vallance implied that the scientists had advised to impose lock-down a week earlier than actually happened. Nonetheless expertise was used to justify decisions
Yesterday that changed . The Prime Minister in a sunny and optimistic press conference held out the prospect of a "significant return to normality" by Christmas..

After four months of encouraging the public to work from home to help contain the spread of coronavirus, the prime minister said from 1 August the onus would be on employers to decide whether staff could safely come back to the office.

His blueprint could lead to a lifting of restrictions on attendance at football matches could happen in October, Johnson said, and it "may conceivably be possible to move away from the social distancing measures" by November.

Neither the Chief Medical Officer nor the Chief Scientific officer attended the conference and it easy to see why

Prof Whitty told a House of Lords committee that " (social) distancing remains an important part of this mix and how it is interpreted in different environments has evolved, but it has not gone away. [It] needs to continue for a long period of time."

Prof Vallance told the same committee that if the virus comes back in a second wave "then clearly we remain as a population exposed to this. And therefore the measures of reducing contact to reduce spread, the sorts of social distancing measures that we've talked about, and the hygiene measures that go along with that, will be necessary."

Earlier this week Prof Vallance also put himself at odds with the prime minister when he said there was no reason to change the work from home message. Indeed the Prime Minister said "I must stress that the chief scientific officer and chief medical officer give us advice, which we of course take very, very seriously, but in the end decisions are taken by the elected politicians,"
These announcements are to some extent understandable as the economy continues to stutter as the " stay at home " message still resonates with many and there has been caution amongst the public to embracing the opening up. With all opinion polls suggesting a big drop in trust in the Governments handling of the crisis it is not clear issuing advice different to that of the medical professionals will convince many to change their behaviours
However the announcements yesterday have been met with scepticism by business where the PM has in effect transferred responsibility to them to encourage folk back to work whilst still being equivocal about the safety of public transport and the medical professionals who strongly doubt you can avoid social distancing without a vaccine
Ed Daveyacting Leader of the Liberal Democrats summed up the situation neatly when he said:

While we all want life to get back to normal as soon as possible, people remain rightly worried about coronavirus. The Prime Minister's plan to change current guidance for working at home and public transport use is utterly reckless and flies in the face of experts, including the UK's Chief Scientific Adviser.

With Government testing and tracing plans in an unholy mess, it is deeply irresponsible to throw caution to the wind like this. Ministers are passing the buck and, without protections, they have opened the door to serious disputes between employees and employers.

The Government must be held to account to ensure that the same mistakes are never repeated. That is why I have called on the Prime Minister to bring forward a timetable for an independent inquiry before the summer recess. We need a commitment to an independent inquiry now, not more dither and delay.