One of us has been called to give evidence to the Hallett Covid Inquiry. So Carl worked for weeks on his submission, assuming that the Inquiry would genuinely look at events of the last three years and the evidence decisions were made on. Chaired by a British judge who seemed to stand no nonsense from politicians, a widely respected member of the Upper House, what could go wrong?
Inquiry watchers will know that usually what happens is that the process looks impartial and, in some cases, probably is impartial, then you get a report which is either in the wishy-washy sphere or is ignored by the Government and public health like Dame Deirdre Hines’ report on the 2009 influenza pandemic was.
The Government took no notice of Dame Deirdre’s warning about overreliance on predictive models, and here we are again. However, once the cards are on the table, we need not worry too much about who says what in the Hallett Inquiry, who is called, who is ignored and whatever its findings are.
Why? Because the Inquiry has already bought into the Government narrative.
We are asking all staff and visitors to take a lateral flow test:
i) For staff and visitors attending daily – a test at the beginning of each week.
ii) For staff and visitors attending on individual days – a test in advance of attending.
So the Inquiry a priori assumes that:
- Lateral flow tests can correctly identify active cases of SARS-CoV-2, those most likely to be infectious (otherwise, why do the test and ask positives to stay away?);
- A positive later flow test equals infectivity (i.e., we know the mode of transmission, including the infectious dose or inoculum);
- That whatever measures they take to prevent ‘positives’ from giving evidence in person are going to slow or interrupt transmission;
- If someone gives evidence while coughing and spluttering but has a negative SARS-CoV-2 test, they will not transmit what they are infected with (if an infection is causing the symptoms).
The Inquiry team must therefore think the billion lateral flows we bought and distributed were worth the costs – thus, what’s the point of the inquiry?
They could have easily adopted one of the other policies: why not a Rule of Six, two-metre distancing? Hopefully, you get the point: they may even have the screens up if you attend or a 10 o’clock curfew if you’re lucky.
An inquiry should address the issues with an open mind. If this were a court of law, the case might be dismissed for witness tampering.
This doesn’t bode well – it means the Inquiry team is already making assumptions about what works and what doesn’t, introducing bias before it gets started on taking evidence from witnesses.
There needs to be a clear statement of who made this decision on what basis – otherwise, what happens next in the inquiry is immaterial.
Dr. Carl Heneghan is the Oxford Professor of Evidence Based Medicine and Dr. Tom Jefferson is an epidemiologist based in Rome who works with Professor Heneghan on the Cochrane Collaboration. This article was first published on their Substack blog, Trust The Evidence, which you can subscribe to here.