A group of over 30 scientists, academics, and physicians have written to Boris Johnson asking that he reconsider the current approach to COVID-19, which the letter says “appears to be one of suppression of the virus, until such a time that a vaccine can be deployed.” This, according to the letter, is “increasingly unfeasible” and “leading to significant harm across all age groups, which likely offsets any benefits.”
The letter was authored by two Oxford professors, one a Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology and one the Director of Oxford’s Centre for Evidence Based Medicine; a Professor of Medicine in the University of Buckingham; and the Director of Economic Insight.
The letter calls for a move from generalised restrictions to “more targeted measures that protect the most vulnerable from COVID, whilst not adversely impact those not at risk.” They highlight care homes as one place where measures would be most appropriate.
Particular attention is paid to the wide-ranging impact of lockdowns and generalised restrictions on the treatment of cancers, saying that it is estimated that the impact of lockdown on ‘2-week-wait’ cancer referrals, to this point, will lead an additional 1,200 deaths from cancer. Cancer Research UK estimated that there have been 2 million delayed or missed cancer screenings, tests or treatments and estimates indicate this could lead to an additional 60,000 deaths from cancer.
The letter also calls on the government to reconsider “behavioural interventions that seek to increase the personal threat perception of COVID” as “they likely contribute to adverse physical and mental health impacts beyond COVID.” They ask that the government instead provide the public with “objective information on the actual risk they face from COVID-19, by age and health status.”
They close by saying that the current debate around COVID “appears unhelpfully polarised around views that COVID is extremely deadly to all and, on the other hand, those who believe COVID poses no risk at all”, and by asking that the government “step back” and “fundamentally reconsider the path forward.”
A group of us across medicine, academia and other areas have come together and sent this letter to the PM and his team.
Professors Heneghan, Gupta and many others – a wide range of voices as this crisis affects everything.
We desperately need a rethink to find a better balance. pic.twitter.com/0jHqta3KYE
— Professor Karol Sikora (@ProfKarolSikora) September 21, 2020