Posted by Roger Mallett Posted on 30 March 2024

Academics Raise Concerns About UK Covid-19 Inquiry

Over 50 prominent UK academics have signed an open letter to Baroness Heather Hallett, chair of the UK Covid-19 Inquiry, calling for urgent action to address the shortcomings of the probe so far. The signatories of the letter say the Hallett Inquiry suffers from bias, false assumptions, and a lack of impartiality.

“The Covid Inquiry is not living up to its mission to evaluate the mistakes made during the pandemic, whether Covid measures were appropriate, and to prepare the country for the next pandemic,” they write.

Kevin Bardosh, lead signatory and Director of Collateral Global has been following the Inquiry closely. He’s concerned it has focused too much on “who said what and when,” rather than homing in on key scientific questions about the evidence (or lack thereof) underpinning policy decisions.

“The Inquiry was pre-designed on the assumption that the government ‘didn’t do enough’ to protect people during the pandemic,” says Bardosh. “But the thing about the pandemic is that more measures, didn’t mean more lives saved. It’s a paradoxical aspect of health policy that more doesn’t necessarily mean better.”

Bardosh, who is affiliated with University of Edinburgh Medical School, says because the Inquiry’s starting position is that non-pharmaceutical interventions (e.g. masks) and lockdowns were necessary and effective, it’s not actually interrogating the trade-offs of these policies.

“If you go back to pre-Covid, policies like lockdowns, extended school closures, and contact tracing for a respiratory virus, were not the ‘scientific consensus’ for how to respond rationally to a pandemic,” he says. “In fact, the reverse was true. The goal was to minimise the disruption to society because it would have all these short and long-term unintended consequences.”

In December 2023, when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was questioned at the Inquiry, he admitted the UK government had failed to discuss the costs and benefits of pandemic policies.

Sunak pointed to a peer-reviewed report by Imperial College London and the University of Manchester that applied a Quality-Adjusted Life Year analysis to the first lockdown in the UK and found “for every permutation of lives saved and GDP lost, the costs of lockdown exceed the benefits.” [emphasis added]

Bardosh has also called out the Inquiry for its double standards in scrutinising experts.

Take for example, Neil Ferguson, professor at Imperial College and former SAGE member. He was the architect behind lockdowns after his March 2020 models warned that 500,000 Brits would die unless tougher restrictions were put in place to curb spread of the virus.

Bardosh says, “The Inquiry hasn’t really questioned Ferguson’s mathematical model in any substantial way. But if you compare that to the questioning of Professor Carl Heneghan, who’s based out of Oxford, it was very confrontational, and they used provocative language to suggest he didn’t have expertise in this area.”

Heneghan, the director of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, was among 32 senior UK academics who urged then-Prime Minister, Boris Johnson to think twice about plunging Britain into a second lockdown in the autumn of 2020.

It was revealed during evidence to the Inquiry, that the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Dame Angela McLean, called Heneghan a “fuckwit” on a WhatsApp chat during a September 2020 Government meeting for his dissenting views on lockdowns.

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