In our open letter to Baroness Hallett, we listed what we regard as crucial scientific topics which underpin the whole Covid narrative. Our understanding of these issues (past and present) is vital to describe past mistakes and avoid repeating them. They are also important in never again shifting power into the hands of ‘experts’ who may not be so expert.
So here they are, listed again with brief explanations for each and relevant hyperlinks.
Most have already been discussed in detail in Trust the Evidence and Carl’s submission to the Inquiry.
- How was a case of Covid defined? ‘Covid cases’ were part of the triad of pointers regarding how the pandemic was progressing. Each night, an update was wheeled out to inform the public. In reality, the only newly identified case that matters is one that is capable of transmitting the bug. Because of ignorance and widespread misuse and misreporting of PCR, we do not know how many cases were active at any given time.
- How was a Covid hospital admission defined? Hospital cases were the second visible token of progression. Their attribution to SARS-CoV-2 suffers from the same problems as the case definition, and in addition up to 40% of hospital infections were probably acquired in hospitals.
- How was a Covid death defined? Death is the third widely used outcome to assess the severity of pandemics. Accuracy in assigning the cause of death is vital in determining the impact of the agent, monitoring its evolution and comparing its threat with those of other agents. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic there was widespread reporting of aggregate death data with little attention paid to the accuracy over the assignment of causation. Here, too, we found problems: 14 different ways of attributing a death during the pandemic and other widespread inconsistencies in the attribution of deaths.
- Did the definitions impact the perception and management of pandemic services? Given the widespread inconsistencies and lack of oversight by public health bodies and Governments, did the lack of consistent definitions play any part in decisions made during the pandemic?
- What was the point of mass testing as carried out during the pandemic? The objectives of screening are enshrined in time-honoured principles. Were these principles followed when £37 billion of taxpayers’ money were committed?
- Were the tests used adequate and well interpreted by those responsible? Supposedly, mass testing was introduced to identify those who were infectious but had no symptoms. However, no history was taken, and systematic misuse of PCR likely created a mass of ‘positives’ that were threats to no one.
- What was done to minimise the risk to those in care homes, either residents or new intakes from ‘cleared’ hospitals? Hospitals were cleared hastily to make way for serious Covid patients. So, the risk was transferred from the community and wards to those living in care homes at the highest risk for severe outcomes. What measures were taken to minimise the impact on care home residents?
- Why are models so central to the debate when they are mostly based on assumptions? The inquiry’s reverence and obsequiousness to modellers has been well documented. Since models are based on assumptions, what is their role in future decision-making?
- Did the predictions from models reflect the following realities? Has anyone bothered to verify the predictions made by the various models?
- What was the basis of the scientific evidence used in decision making? Several months on, we are not sure who made what decisions on which basis. Decision-makers seem to contradict themselves and flip over when under attack. What should decisions in a pandemic be based on?
- What was the basis of the scientific evidence used in the models? Our basic review of the 100 models “mapped” by the UKHSA shows that none of them should have been used to inform policy. Models are not evidence, but they are now enshrined in decision-making. None of the 100 models defined an active SARS-CoV-2 case, making whatever is written in them of no scientific value.
- Why were measures such as school closures and vaccinations aimed at those least at risk of disease and its consequences? Few children died or were admitted to hospital. However, school closures and mask mandates made their lives very difficult. How were decisions made, and what are the consequences of such actions?
- Why has there been a dearth of research on the mode of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and of organised attempts to plug that gap? Despite sweeping statements by various lobbies as to how SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted, high-quality evidence is lacking. Without a clear transmission pathway backed by facts and not opinions, transmission will proceed unhindered.
- Why were the lessons of the Italian Lombardy outbreak (which peaked by March 9th 2020 without any society-wide interventions) not used to inform policy?The explosive phase of the Lombardy outbreak was over by March 9th 2020, subsiding without national restrictions imposed. The test and trace and isolate capacities were overwhelmed by the end of the first week in March. Why were DHSC observers not sent to report back?
- Why does the inquiry continuously refer to Chinese evidence which is of dubious generalisability to Europe? China has a state-imposed threshold of positivity, which prolongs the ‘duration of cases’ far beyond their infectivity phase, distorting any data. Why were these simple problems not recognised?
- Why is the inquiry not exploring the collateral damage caused by the numerous restrictions? The well-documented fallout from the restrictions, for example, in care homes, should be listed and described.
Time to take things seriously?
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, Trust The Evidence, which you can subscribe to here.
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