No “good evidence” to close churches, says UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser

The UK’s chief scientific adviser has said scientists working on the pandemic “haven’t got good evidence” to justify imposing the new lockdown measures on places of worship.

Sir Patrick Vallance made the comment at the Science and Technology committee on Tuesday when asked by Tory MP Mark Logan what advice the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) gives to the British government “in making decisions where evidence is weak, for example on the closing of places of worship?”

Vallance replied, “you’re right we haven’t got good evidence on the exact value of each intervention on R. We produced a paper suggesting what that might be in different areas but really said look this is not a very exact science at all.”

Scientists, he said, views the measures as “a package” that would combine to reduce the reproduction rate of Covid-19.

“You had to think of this as a series of things that interrupt individual activities, but also as a whole, will have an effect on contact and interaction,” he claimed.

“And the danger in trying to then pick apart each one, and when you get down to the ones towards the lower level, where you might say, well, this doesn’t make much of an impact on its own, is that you keep cutting things off, and then you end up with a suboptimal package that doesn’t get R below one.”

When asked how much transmission is estimated to take place in places of worship, Vallance said they had no “good data to answer with any degree of certainty”, whilst his counterpart, UK Chief Medical Officer Prof. Chris Whitty expressed fear that groups congregating outside places of worship would pose a greater risk.

Meanwhile, former prime minister Theresa May MP told the UK parliament that restrictions on public worship by a government with “the best of intentions sets a precedent that could be misused for a government in the future with the worst of intentions.”

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