According to the Guardian Public Health England has told students at the University of York – where one student has fallen ill with coronavirus – that the affected student “did not come into contact with anyone on campus whilst they had symptoms of the virus”. This message was, according to the Guardian, sent to students by the University but the text of the message was created by Public Health England.
The idea, presumably, is to reassure students and allay panic. It is understandable that a Public Health body should see its primary function as containing panic – above containing a disease. But I am struck by the fact that this text embodies a lie. The implication of the text is that the danger comes from being in contact with someone who is showing symptoms of the disease. Otherwise – why make the point about “while they had symptoms?”
However; this is a false claim. The virus can and does transmit from people who do not (yet) show any symptoms. This has been confirmed by a study of the case in Germany. According to CNN the German study was published on 30/1/20. It is just possible that the Public Health England message was crafted before this study came out. However Chinese medical authorities have been saying for some time that the virus can transmit from someone who is not yet showing symptoms. So – there is no valid clinical basis for Public Health England’s apparent claim people are safe because the affected person in York was not on campus after he developed symptoms.
What strikes me about this is that it is simply an instance of routine lying by the authorities. This kind of crude and vulgar expression of power “Oh, who gives a fig, let’s just lie” is something which has developed in the Public Sector in the UK over the last 20 years or so. The UK Civil Service used to be a bastion of reliability and uprightness. Not any more.