MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Here is an open letter published yesterday, initiated by SENSE ABOUT SCIENCE and signed by many UK scientists and other experts. If you agree with it, you can still add your name to the signatories (see below):

 

 

Dear Mr Johnson

We urge you to start publishing the government’s evolving plans for coronavirus testing, and the evidence they are based on.

Testing is key to understanding the risks and to how people can get back to work and normal life. It is what major decisions will be based on, but there are also limits to what it can tell us.

People are frustrated and confused about the scientific and logistical challenges of testing and what the government is doing about it. The internet and media are awash with rumours and the public are valiantly trying to work their way through fragments of information. People in senior positions in healthcare, in government departments, in research and in the related industries are struggling to see whether their input is needed and how to give it.

Why is testing delayed? Is there a shortage of tests? Is there a shortage of chemicals? Do they only work 30% of the time? Will there be tests to see whether someone’s had the virus? Can people test themselves or does it have to be done by a clinic? These are just a handful of the many questions being asked. Scientists and government representatives are trying to answer them but it’s a losing battle with volume and reach.

The UK government’s response to this epidemic started by levelling with people in a clear way about the emerging evidence and transparency on the government’s evolving thinking about that evidence. Of course, continuing to tell people what is happening has become complex and challenging. But that won’t be brought under control by limiting communication to behavioural instructions or by your efforts to clamp down on misinformation. The government cannot clamp down on misinformation without substituting information in its place. Would the government please maintain its commitment to evidence transparency and put its evolving plans and evidence on testing on an open site where the public, experts and government agencies can follow them and to which those who are trying to address confusion can direct people.

Yours faithfully

Tracey Brown OBE, director, Sense about Science

Carl Heneghan, director, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine

Justine Roberts, CEO, Mumsnet

Emma Friedmann, campaign director, FACSaware

Professor Sarah Harper, The Oxford Institute of Population Ageing, University of Oxford

Mairead MacKenzie, Independent Cancer Patient Voices

Rose Woodward, Founder, Patient & Advocate, Kidney Cancer Support Network

Dr Bu’Hussain Hayee PhD FRCP AGAF, Clinical Lead for Gastroenterology

I.Chisholm-Bunting, School of Nursing and Allied Health

Rachael Jolley, editor in chief, Index on censorship

Caroline Fiennes, director, Giving Evidence

Dr Ritchie Head, director, Ceratium

Tommy Parker, KiActiv

Professor Annette Dolphin FRS, FMedSci, President of British Neuroscience Association

Dr James May, Vice Chair, Healthwatch and GP

Peter Johnson, Patient representative with respiratory conditions

A. P. Dawid, FRS Emeritus Professor of Statistics, University of Cambridge

Stafford Lightman FMedSci FRS, Professor of Medicine, University of Bristol

Dr Christie Peacock CBE PhD FRAgS FRSB Hon DSc, Founder and Chairman, Sidai Africa (Kenya) Ltd

Caroline Richmond, Medical journalist

Professor Stephan Lewandowsky FAcSS, Chair in Cognitive Psychology, University of Bristol

Hugh Pennington CBE, Emeritus Professor of Bacteriology, University of Aberdeen

Prof. Wendy Bickmore FRS, FRSE, FMedSci, Director: MRC Human Genetics Unit, University of Edinburgh

Benjamin Schuster-Böckler, PhD, Research Group Leader, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

Dr Max Pemberton, Daily Mail columnist and NHS Doctor

Diana Kornbrot, Emeritus Professor of Mathematical Psychology, University of Hertfordshire

Professor Patrick Eyers, Chair in Cell Signalling, University of Liverpool

Lelia Duley, Emeritus Professor, University of Nottingham

Edzard Ernst, Emeritus Professor University of Exeter

Ianis Matsoukas, Biomedical Sciences, University of Bolton

Dr Lorna Gibson, Radiology Registrar, New Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh

Sylvia Schröder, Senior Research Fellow, UCL

Dr Emma Dennett, St George’s University of London.

Ellie Wood, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh

Sophie Faulkner, clinical doctoral research fellow / occupational therapist

Dr Maya Hanspal, research assistant, UK Discovery Lab

Dr John Baird, University of Aberdeen

Martin Stamp, managing director, Ionic Information

Saša Jankovic, Journalist

Kate Ravilious, Freelance Science Writer

Charise Johnson, policy advisor

Dr Sophie Millar, University of Nottingham

Bissera Ivanvoa, Research Assistant in Linguistics, The University of Leeds

Baroness Jolly, House of Lords

Dr. Simon Keeling MSc, PhD, RMet, FRMetS, The weather centre

Laurie van Someren, Aleph One Ltd

Prof Chris Kirk, former Hon. Sec. Royal Society of Biology.

Sergio Della Sala, Professor of Human Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh

Dr. Wilber Sabiiti,Senior Research fellow in Medicine, University of St Andrews

Prof. Bob Brecher, Director, Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, University of Brighton

Dr Sabina Michnowicz, UCL Hazard Centre

David Orme, Research Assistant, Cortex Lab

Rebecca Dewey PhD, Research Fellow in Neuroimaging

Dr Ricky Nathvani, Imperial College London.

Rita F. de Oliveira, Senior lecturer Sport and Exercise Science, London South Bank University

Prof Christopher C French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London

Kirstie Tew, Lead Scientist, KiActiv®

Dr Ben Martynoga, Freelance writer

Nigel Johnson, Patient representative with respiratory conditions

Dr Mimi Tanimoto – Science Communications Consultant

Till Bruckner, TranspariMED

Lesley-Anne Pearson, The University of Dundee

Sue O’Connell, retired consultant microbiologist, Health Protection Agency

Hao Ni, Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics, UCL, The Turing Fellow, the Alan Turing Institute

Dr Simon Underdown, FSA, FRSB, Director – Centre for Environment and Society

Matthew A Jay, PhD Student in Legal Epidemiology, University College London

Michael Butcher, Chairman, dataLearning Ltd

Professor Tom Crick, Swansea University

Dr J K Aronson, Consultant Physician and Clinical Pharmacologist, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine

Dr Thomas O’Mahoney, Anglia Ruskin University

Professor Ianis G. Matsoukas PhD (Biomedical Sciences), University of Bolton

Emeritus Professor Nigel Brown, Blackah-Brown Consulting

Danae Dodge, Ask for Evidence Ambassador

Ieuan Hughes, Department of Paediatrics, University of Cambridge, Addenbrooke’s Hospital

Mandy Payne, Freelance Medical Editor

Lyssa Gold, University of St Andrews

Please email hello@senseaboutscience.org with your name and description if you wish to add yourself to the letter.

5 Responses to An open letter to the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson

  • I just read that the PCR test is not specific to the pathological Coronavirus strains. It tests for all strains, many of which may be relatively harmless. And a PCR test is not a proper test to determine the Cause of a disease. It only shows that some of the DNA that is being tested for has been found. This whole testing regime is built on sand.

    • glad the expert has spoken!

    • Well Roger, you failed again on the most basic fact of what you were trying to be smart about. This time it is the basic biology of the Coronavirus..
      If you are eager to find out why you flunked, you can read about Coronaviridae here:
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronaviridae
      and try to find out for yourself.

      And please, if you make a claim to have read something somewhere, at least show the decency to tell us where, so we can evaluate the source and perhaps teach you how to avoid the fake infowebs. The red banner, remember 😉

    • @ Roger,
      you seem to have come across some half-truth statement, which are spread by unfortunate characters like e.g. Dr. W. Wodarg, who seems to have a tendency towards conspiracy theories.

      Regarding the RT-PCR test specificity:
      *Seven human coronavirus types are known today, four are rather harmless (229E, NL63, OC43, HKU1) and commonly cause mild cold symptoms. The three other human coronaviruses (MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2) are the more dangerous types.
      *The RT-PCR-based test, developed by scientists at the Charite in Berlin [R1], gives a positive result for SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2. The test was validated with hundreds of samples and did not react positive to ANY other human virus responsible for cold or flu symptoms [R2].
      *Due to the fact that the “old” SARS-CoV virus is not prevalent anymore (the outbreak was stopped more than 15 years ago), a positive RT-PCR test today means that you carry the new SARS-CoV-2 -beyond any serious doubts.
      *The test would also react positive for other viruses present e.g. in some bats. This is of course not relevant for Covid19, since we test humans, not bats.
      If you want to learn more about the fascinating field of coronaviridae phylogeny, see [R3].

      [R1] https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2020.25.3.2000045
      [R2] https://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/info/16-Coronavirus-Update-Wir-brauchen-Abkuerzungen-bei-der-Impfstoffzulassung,podcastcoronavirus140.html
      [R3] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41564-020-0695-z

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