The New Observer UK Politics The lying on Coronavirus – as virulent as the virus itself

The lying on Coronavirus – as virulent as the virus itself

Sars-Cov-2 illustration

The Public Accounts Committee has just issued a report in which they commented that the UK government’s behaviour towards Care Homes vis-à-vis Covid-19 was “reckless”.

Someone from PHE (Public Health England – a government body) explained to the Committee:

What was becoming clear in the back-end of March and certainly from the beginning of April was that there was an asymptomatic phase, which means that people can transfer the virus without ever having symptoms, or a significant pre-symptomatic phase, which is where the virus could be shared.

The context is that it wasn’t until 15th April that mandatory Covid-19 testing was introduced for patients who were being discharged from hospitals into Care Homes. Up until that point patients were discharged from hospitals without a test. Some will have been infectious and some not. No one knew. And no one cared. In the words of one consultant this “seeded” Covid-19 into Care Homes. 16,000 people have died as a result.

Why is Professor Paul Johnstone of PHE  at pains to say that  “it was becoming clear in the back-end of March and certainly from the beginning of April” that Covid-19 transmits asymptomatically? The date is arbitrary and is an exercise in political spin. If they put it sooner they have to explain why people were being discharged so long after the fact of asymptomatic transmission was established. Later and even the most supine of critics will not be able to believe them without going full-on psychotic.

But let’s face reality. Asymptomatic was in fact known about since the end of January.

This is a link to a Guardian article discussing the first case of asymptomatic transmission noted in Germany in January.

This is a CNN article from 1 February which reports that “top US infectious diseases doctor” confirms asymptomatic transmission. The Doctor in question is Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He was commenting on a study into the case in Germany noted in the previous link.

The WHO was officially admitting the possibility of asymptomatic transmission from February 4. 

There are two possibilities. Either PHE – and Professor Johnstone – were living in a parallel Universe or they are/were lying through their teeth. Either is unforgivable. These are public officials who receive generous salaries to protect the public from health risks. (Professor Johnstone appears to be on a little over £200,000 plus pension benefits) [1]. If a member of the public with GCSE sciences (for example the editor of this website) can read the press and understand the risks of asymptomatic transmission in February then these people should have been able to.

If the answer is – and this is certainly the line that Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Office for England, is trying – that they didn’t have enough data (and they have to argue at this point that the German study was flawed) it is still inexcusable. Public Health policy should err on the side of caution. If there was a possibility (as per the WHO advice on 4 February) of asymptomatic transmission they should have based policy on that possibility.

A “reckless” and “appalling” (in the words of the Public Accounts Committee) policy – and now they are lying about what happened.  It is heartbreaking to see this degree of cynicism when you consider that what we are talking about here is the needless deaths of thousands of elderly people. Elderly people who were entitled to expect that their lavishly paid public officials would protect them. But who instead got a fatal dish of incompetence wrapped in a tissue of falsehoods.