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UK’s COVID-19 crisis response damaged by lack of transparency – Scientist

The UK government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis has been hindered by secrecy and a lack of openness and transparency from ministers and decision makers, a top scientist in the country said on Monday, August 3, 2020.

Sir Paul Nurse
Sir Paul Nurse

Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel laureate and the director of the Francis Crick Institute in London, said, as cited by The Guardian, that the “Decisions are too often shrouded in secrecy.

“They need challenge and we need processes to ensure that happens.

“If they are going to keep the trust of the nation, they need to make those discussions more public.”

According to Nurse, more transparency and scrutiny is needed, because sometimes, it looks like important decisions to address the pandemic were made in a “black box” of scientists, civil servants and politicians.

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The former president of the Royal Society and a chief scientific advisor to the European Commission warned that failure in achieving the amount of openness that might allow other people to challenge emerging policy has led to poor decisions and a decline in public trust.

Nurse noted, for example, that the government should have sought more specialised advice on its coronavirus testing scheme at the beginning of the pandemic.

“They seemed not to want to admit that they weren’t prepared, that they were unable to do the testing properly, because that would have been an admission of failure from square one,” he said.

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He also dubbed as “a total shambles” the decision to build and equip the Lighthouse Labs Network to increase testing capacity, because in his opinion, large laboratories take time to set up.

The newspaper highlighted that other UK researchers had criticised the Tory government for its handling of expert advice, complaining that such lack of transparency has allowed ministers to claim their policies are driven by scientific evidence when that has not been the case.

Government figures show there have been more than 304,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus so far in the UK and around 46,200 people have died after testing positive for the disease.

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However, the Office of National Statistics has registered more than 56,400 coronavirus-related deaths.

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