I’m writing in haste to alert you that we are sending the following to the PM and other senior figures in the UK government this afternoon. If you’re in the UK, could you join it?
We are urging you to start publishing the government’s evolving plans for coronavirus testing, and the evidence they are based on.
Testing holds the key to understanding the risks and to how people can get back to work and normal life. It is what all the major decisions will be based on. People are frustrated and confused about the scientific and logistical challenges of testing and what the government is doing about it. The internet and media are awash with rumours and the public valiantly trying to work their way through fragments of information. People in senior positions in healthcare, in government departments, in research and in the related industries are struggling to see whether their input is needed and how to give it.
Why is testing delayed? Is there a shortage of tests? Is there a shortage of chemicals? Do they only work 30% of the time? Will there be tests to see whether someone’s had the virus? Can people test themselves or does it have to be done by a clinic? These are just a handful of the many questions being asked.
The UK government’s response to this epidemic started by levelling with people in a clear way about the emerging evidence and the government’s evolving thinking about that evidence. Of course, continuing to tell people what is happening has become complex and challenging. But that won’t be brought under control by limiting communication to behavioural instructions and trying to clamp down on misinformation. The government cannot clamp down on misinformation without substituting information in its place. The government should put its evolving plans and evidence on testing on an open site where the public, experts and government agencies can view them.
Could you share this with your networks (you’ll see a version of it on Twitter and facebook) and email us to add your, or your organisation’s, name to the letter.
Senior Communications Officer
Sense about Science
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