New study finds choral society outbreak that sparked panic was misunderstood, with most choristers having been infected outside of rehearsal
The Covid choir ban was based on flawed evidence, scientists have concluded, after showing that a church outbreak early in the pandemic was not caused by a singing super-spreader.
“There are some scientists who have absolutely loved being media stars for the first time and they don’t want to stop. We don’t hear as much from the paediatricians, disease physicians, academic virologists and the immunologists who really know about these things.” (says Professor Allyson Pollock.)
Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia, said many prominent Covid voices have never written papers on infectious diseases. “It’s like me deciding, ‘I did a course on health and economics a year ago: maybe I should set up a group advising the chancellor on how to manage the tax system.’”
Britain’s omicron wave may be no worse than a flu pandemic, an expert has said, as the first major study into the new variant suggests it is less severe than delta.
The first real-world study looking at 78,000 omicron cases in South Africa found the risk of hospitalisation is 29 per cent lower compared with the Wuhan strain, and 23 per cent lower than delta, with vaccines holding up well.
Far fewer people have also needed intensive care from omicron, with just five per cent of cases admitted to ICU compared to 22 per cent of delta patients, the study shows.
The open letter states that “a good society cannot be created by an obsessive focus on a single cause of ill-health” and states all restrictions should be lifted in June on the final date in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown. Masks should no longer be worn by schoolchildren after May 17, say the scientists – and they warn the damage to society will be too great if the current Covid control measures continue beyond the June roadmap date.
Vaccine passports should also be scrapped along with mass community testing, they say.
Instead, the government should focus on targeted testing, creating better incentives for staying home if ill and basic hygiene measures, such as handwashing and surface cleaning.
Signatories (in alphabetical order)
Professor Ryan Anderson, Translational Science, Medicines Discovery Catapult
Dr Colin Axon, Mechanical Engineering, Brunel University
Professor Anthony Brookes, Genomics and Bioinformatics, University of Leicester
Professor Jackie Cassell, FFPH, Deputy Dean, Brighton and Sussex Medical School
Professor Angus Dalgleish, FRCP, FRCPath, FMedSci, Oncology, St George’s, University of London
Professor Robert Dingwall, FAcSS, HonMFPH, Sociology, Nottingham Trent University
Professor Sunetra Gupta, Theoretical Epidemiology, University of Oxford
Professor Carl Heneghan, MRCGP, Centre for Evidence Based Medicine, University of Oxford
Professor Mike Hulme, Human Geography, University of Cambridge.
Dr John Lee – formerly Pathology, Hull York Medical School
Professor David Livermore, Medical Microbiology, University of East Anglia.
Professor Paul McKeigue Genetic Epidemiology and Statistical Genetics, University of Edinburgh
Professor David Paton, Industrial Economics, University of Nottingham
Emeritus Professor Hugh Pennington, CBE, FRCPath, FRCP (Edin), FMedSci, FRSE, Bacteriology, University of Aberdeen
Dr Gerry Quinn, Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster
Dr Roland Salmon, MRCGP, FFPH, former Director of the Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre (Wales).
Emeritus Professor John Scott, CBE, FRSA, FBA, FAcSS, Sociology, University of Essex
Professor Karol Sikora, FRCR, FRCP, FFPM, Medicine, University of Buckingham
Professor Ellen Townsend, Psychology, University of Nottingham
Dr Chao Wang, Health & Social Care Statistics, Kingston University and St George’s, University of London,
Professor John Watkins, Epidemiology, Cardiff University
Professor Lisa White, Modelling and Epidemiology, University of Oxford.
- Humans have lived with infectious diseases for at least 15,000 years.
- Until the early 2000s when we started to vaccinate for flu, we accepted that outbreaks would kill 20,000 to 50,000 people every winter without much comment.
- Self-isolation is not appropriate if you do not share the living conditions of the elites who make the rules – and that the risk does not seem proportionate to the benefits for ordinary people.
- Face covering, as practised, is irrelevant in most circumstances. The whole country should not be driven by the exceptional circumstances of rush hour in major cities. If most people are currently wearing face coverings, acknowledge that this is because they want to avoid trouble rather than to achieve protection.
- We will never eradicate the threat from coronaviruses because they are so widespread among animal populations.