James O'Brien's eye-opening interview with former Chief Scientific Advisor

20 May 2020, 13:49 | Updated: 20 May 2020, 13:52

By Fiona Jones

This is James O'Brien's truly eye-opening interview with former Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Sir David King. A must watch.

The Former Chief Scientific Adviser (CSA) has formed an independent scientific advisory group, separate to the government's panel of experts, as "there is no transparency in the way scientific advice is going into the government."

Sir David said: "When I was Chief Scientific Adviser it was well known to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that I would take advice from a group of experts and then take that advice into them and also put it into the public domain.

"That is a critically important way of operating because when ministers say we are following science advice, there's no way in which we in the public domain can tell or not if that is correct. If the CSA is able to frankly put advice into the public domain then we know what that advice was."

James told Sir David that journalists linked to Downing Street said they could not publish the science for fear of "embarrassing the allies who had gone down a different route."

"Good lord," said Sir David, "that's the first time I've heard that one. Each of these reasons given have been incredible, literally incredible.

"I think the government is running a top down process, everything is run from Number 10. People like Dominic Cummings clearly have a big role in this and the science advisory group really has to follow what situation they are set by those people."

"The government is running a top down process," Sir David told James O'Brien
"The government is running a top down process," Sir David told James O'Brien. Picture: LBC/PA

Sir David explained that the way to overcome a pandemic quickly is to test anyone with symptoms and trace anyone they have contact and then treat them, like in Greece. For us, he reflected, we started testing and tracing and then stopped doing that.

"What is simply amazing for me is we're not using GPs for taking blood samples and having them tested. I am just astounded that we have brought in a private company to run the testing and tracing process...I couldn't see how it could be justified because your GP has your medical records, your GP is the person you would go to for an annual flu jab."

James cited tensions rising between scientists and ministers, with MP Therese Coffey suggested that mistakes made by the government in its early response to the pandemic were because they got the “wrong” advice from scientists.

"The scientists on the SAGE committee are in a difficult position because they were set some containment. They were put in a fenced area and told you've got to do it under these conditions...the sensible thing to do would have been to get the test and trace process up and running through out GPs," he said, emphasising that the science was not being followed.

He said, "We did nothing in February, it seems, to get ourselves into a prepared state for managing a pandemic." Therefore, out of desperation, the government scientists may have suggested a herd immunity approach, he hypothesised.

Sir David's independent team are currently compiling a report to determine whether children should go back to school on June 1.