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Analysis: Boris Johnson has split from his top scientists on coronavirus

October 13, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 17: (L-R) Britain's Chancellor Rishi Sunak, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chief scientific officer Patrick Vallance give a press conference about the ongoing situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak inside 10 Downing Street on March 17, 2020 in London, England. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Photo by Matt Dunham - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

There was a time when Boris Johnson claimed his government was following the science at every step of its plan for dealing with coronavirus. Not anymore.

But as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK soars once more, and the country braces for a long, miserable winter, the British Prime Minister appears to be at odds with those same advisers he once placed front and center of the pandemic response.

And On Tuesday he was facing further criticism after it emerged that his group of top scientific advisers recommended three weeks ago a significantly tougher package of measures than even he now plans.

Instead of introducing a short, sharp "circuit breaker" lockdown, advocated by experts who want to disrupt the current rate of transmission immediately and buy the country time before a difficult winter, Johnson outlined a three-tiered system of lockdown measures, to be applied locally according to the number of reported cases in a given area.

It was immediately clear that some of Johnson's senior scientific and medical advisers were not convinced.

Hours later, an eye-opening cache of documents was published online -- the minutes of the a recent meeting of the group of top scientific advisers to the UK government, the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE).

Yet the Prime Minister appears to have granted SAGE only one wish: The day after that meeting, he advised that people work from home where possible.

Robert Dingwall, professor of social science at Nottingham Trent University who sits on a panel which advises SAGE, believes some of the group's recommendations were not taken on board by the government because "they were based on theoretical assumptions, rather than empirical evidence," adding that this "reflects the lack of investment in research in social behavioral science compared to medicines and vaccines. "

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