Professor Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M-O) that modelled Covid outcomes for SAGE and the Government, has told the Covid Inquiry his team was never asked to model the harms of lockdown or how to avoid it. Madeline Grant has more in the Telegraph.
Professor Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M-O), was a rare voice of reason throughout the hysteria. It was he who rubbished the notion that elimination was ever possible, and the SNP’s Anglophobic claim that Covid was “reseeded” into Scotland from the Typhoid Marys of England when the first lockdown ended. He repeatedly warned that using worst-case predictions (those ‘graphs of doom’) to shock people into compliance could trigger a general loss of scientific credibility. All this proved prescient.
This week, while giving evidence to the Covid Inquiry, Prof Woolhouse made a particularly damning declaration. Though lockdown was often framed as a last resort which no one wanted to impose, he begs to differ. “The harms of the social distancing measures – particularly lockdown, the economic harms, the educational harms, the harms to access to healthcare … societal wellbeing … mental health – were not included in any of the work that SPI-M-O did and, as far as I could tell, no one else was doing it either,” he told the inquiry.
So his team was never even asked to model the harm lockdown might inflict. Nor were they asked to consider alternative ways of mitigating health risks. “The question of how to avoid lockdown was never asked of us,” he added, “and I find that extraordinary.” Too right. This ought to be a national scandal. Saying “hindsight is always 20/20” doesn’t cut it; not only were many people warning about collateral harms at the time, expert authorities weren’t even being asked to consider such warnings.
Myopic decision-making was accompanied by an equally damaging tendency to view the public as a faceless bloc, ignoring the risk levels different individuals faced. So back in March 2020, the nation was, in Woolhouse’s words, “concentrating on schools when we should have been concentrating on care homes”.
This led to two of the pandemic’s most colossal mistakes – the neglect of vulnerable elderly patients and lengthy school closures, even though children were 10,000 times less likely to die from Covid than the elderly and the evidence for school transmission was patchy at best. We are still counting the cost, especially to less privileged pupils.