Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Covid-19: Experts divide into two camps of action—shielding versus blanket policies

BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 21 September 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3702

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An open letter to the UK’s chief medical officers

Rapid Response:

The Dangerous Absence of Discourse

Dear Editor

What is so profoundly disturbing when such unprecedented and fateful decisions are being made about the present and future of our country is the absence of discourse by a government hooked on the hypothesis of an exponential rise and an immunologically unprepared population. They seem to ignore all the signals that this might not be the case [1] - all the experts who do not believe it is the case [2] - in the apparent rush to arrogate ever more extraordinary and inherently oppressive powers to the state. There is not even a show of listening, and it undermines any protestations that these steps are being taken unwillingly.

Not least was it dismaying to see two civil servants - Patrick Vallance and Christopher Whitty - on Monday address the public from Downing Street as if they were the government. We have got used to No 10 briefings, and even the absence of the Prime Minister at such briefings when he became ill in the spring, but this time we had Civil Servants unmediated by elected government politicians. The sheer oddity of it rings alarm bells - we seem to be entering some parallel and perhaps menacing universe. Where is the country we once knew?

Finally, I note a discrepancy between Patrick Vallance's prediction of cases doubling every week and the Prime Minister talking in the Commons of between one and three weeks [3]. Of course, if the country goes into permanent lockdown, patrolled by the police, the army, COVID wardens, snitching citizens etc, and the rate does not take off they can claim victory. But it does not seem very scientific.

[1] Peter Doshi, 'Covid-19: Do many people have pre-existing immunity?'
BMJ 2020; 370 doi: (Published 17 September 2020)

[2] Sikora K. Twitter. 21 Sep 2020.

[3] Sam Blanchard and Vanessa Chalmers,'Now even Boris Johnson rows back on his top scientist's dire prediction of 50,000 cases a day in October and admits outbreak may only be doubling every 20 days, not every week', 22 September 2020,

Competing interests:, an on-line daily journal, concerns itself with the potential environmental sources for the proliferation of autism, neurological impairment, immune dysfunction and chronic disease. I receive no payment as UK Editor

23 September 2020
John Stone
UK Editor
London N22