Top scientist slams government for ‘shrouding in secrecy’ key decisions over coronavirus

PUBLISHED: 10:44 03 August 2020 | UPDATED: 10:55 03 August 2020

Sir Paul Nurse on BBC Question Time. Photograph: BBC.

Sir Paul Nurse on BBC Question Time. Photograph: BBC.

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A top scientist has claimed that major decisions about coronavirus have been “shrouded with secrecy”, as he called for more transparency over policies concerning the pandemic.

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Sir Paul Nurse, the director of the Francis Crick Institute, said the government should “treat the public as adults” in its communications over Covid-19.

Sir Paul told the BBC’s Today programme: “I think we need greater openness in the decision-making. It sometimes seems somewhat shrouded in secrecy.

“And not only that, but better communication of what’s happening. Treat the public as adults.

“I’ll give one example. At the height of the infection I was at a select committee in April and a public health person I think it was – they may have been from the Department for Health and Social Care – was saying all the testing needed for the NHS was in place.

Baroness Dido Harding,  executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire.Baroness Dido Harding, executive chairwoman of NHS Test and Trace and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire.

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“Yet we showed at the Francis Crick, at that time, 45% of frontline healthcare were infected and they were not being tested because capacity was inadequate.

“Now, that isn’t a way to earn trust from the public. We need openness, transparency, scrutiny, and a leadership of people taking responsibility for the decision-making, and we need it now.”

It comes as report suggest that the Treasury and Downing Street could force people to shield again in the autumn as part of “nuclear deterrent” plans under consideration by the government to avoid a second national lockdown.


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The Daily Telegraph says Boris Johnson is expected to order doctors to offer tailored advice this autumn to anyone over 50 who is obese, overweight or in ill health, warning them they are at increased risk from Covid and advising them to stay at home during the winter in the most serious cases.

Using a grading system, those less at risk could be told to reduce social contact, shop during hours designated for those shielding, or avoid public transport, the paper said.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick, asked about whether an extended shielding scheme was in the works, told Times Radio: “This is just speculation.

“That’s not something that is being actively considered.”

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