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The pandemic

Scientists should own up to errors 

A coronavirus briefing in March 2020. Leon Neal/Bloomberg/Getty Images

“I have no problem with scientists making mistakes,” says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times, but they shouldn’t be edited out of history. Yet that is what’s being attempted. A narrative is being set up that Boris Johnson “dithered” last March – he didn’t. The minutes of the government’s scientific committee meeting on March 13 read: “measures seeking to completely suppress spread of Covid-19 will cause a second peak”. It’s being alleged that “Boris got it wrong on masks” when scientists argued early last year that they were a bad idea. At the same time the scientific advice was that “testing was a waste of time” and international travel restrictions were not worth the fuss. 

Then there’s the “emerging fantasy” about herd immunity. Published documents and public statements from Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance show that this was our initial strategy. No one wanted to “kill your granny” – they wanted to save lives and avoid a winter peak of the virus. “The problem wasn’t their motives, but their analysis.” But now, anxious about being “scapegoated” by a future inquiry, scientists deny herd immunity was even considered. “When so many politicians have a promiscuous relationship with the truth, it is even more imperative that scientists tell it as it is.”

Read the full article here (paywall).