Looking back, it seems almost childishly naive.
Back then, we were just learning concepts like “R-rate” or “T cell immunity,” and Zoom quizzes were a new way to spend an evening rather than thrill.
Now, six months after the first lockdown and in the face of yet another surge in infection levels, we are cynical COVID-19[feminine[feminine Veterans.
We now know that our scientists – like our politicians – are fallible. They do not agree. We cannot just “blithely follow science” because there is no such thing as “science” – just different interpretations of incomplete and unreliable evidence.
I have come to realize that we need to challenge our scientists the same way we challenge our politicians – asking them to explain their reasoning, offering them alternative interpretations, and listening to a range of views.
On Sunday at Sophy Ridge, we’re going to try something we’ve never done before in the pandemic – have two scientists debate each other.
Professor Sunetra Gupta is Professor of Theoretical Epidemiology at the University of Oxford. On Monday, she signed an open letter with 32 other scientists, arguing against local and national lockdowns and calling for restrictions for those most vulnerable to the disease.
She believes that since 89% of deaths from COVID-19 are in the over 65 age group and those with pre-existing health conditions are also vulnerable, they should be subject to tighter restrictions while those who are less at risk should be allowed to continue living. in a less restricted way.
This point of view is extremely inflammatory within the scientific community. Some in rival camps are even hesitant to argue with each other for fear of legitimizing their point of view.
A second letter was published by 22 scientists, led by Dr Trisha Greenhalgh of the University of Oxford, arguing that it is simply not possible to isolate those most at risk from the rest of the population. A “collective immunity” strategy – where vulnerable people are protected and we relax from other infected people – is too risky when we don’t know how long the immunity lasts.
Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial College, is concerned with judging the strength of immunity before there is more evidence. He believes that until we have a vaccine or successful treatment, we must be prepared to reduce our social contact.
What data should we trust? How to assess the costs of COVID-19 against the economic costs? Should we take into account the cost of our mental well-being? Can we learn from other countries or are their challenges too different?
The data sets may be the same, but the conclusions drawn will be deeply personal.
If you thought the political debate among politicians was heated, that’s nothing compared to the bickering that rages among scientists. And you can understand the strength of the feeling. Lives are at stake. The stakes could not be higher.
:: Watch Sophy Ridge On Sunday live from 8:30 am Sunday, followed by Sophy Ridge: The Take at 9:30 am