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Indian-origin scientist fears UK’s COVID-19 strategy took wrong path



A leading Indian-origin scientist and public health expert has expressed fears that the UK’s strategy to not focus on greater testing and containment in the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic may have been the “wrong path” to take in the country’s efforts to control the outbreak.

Devi Sridhar, Professor of Global Public Health at the University of Edinburgh, said planning for large-scale testing for the deadly virus was taken off the table early on as the government based its strategy on an Imperial College of London model, which seemed to rely on so-called “herd immunity” for a large enough section of the population to contract COVID-19 and build natural immunity over time.

 “I fear that Imperial perspective (in Lancet) resulted in the UK giving up on containment too early and assuming everyone will get it,” Prof Sridhar said on Twitter.

 “Planning and preparing for unprecedented testing and using big data/apps for tracing were taken off the table. In my view, we went down the wrong path,” said Sridhar, who is supporting the World Health Organisation (WHO) on policy and governance through the pandemic.

The expert, from Edinburgh University’s Usher Institute – College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, warned that the UK could be in for an endless cycle of lockdown and release if the assumption being worked on is that everyone at some stage is likely to be hit by the deadly virus, which has claimed 1,789 lives in the country.

 “If assumption is everyone will get it, then UK will indeed be in an endless cycle of lockdown/release as the government turns on/off tap of spread to let virus filter through the population and attempt to keep ICU need within capacity. All while most vulnerable attempt to self-isolate,” she said.

The 35-year-old expert, who has been working alongside colleagues at her university to help people better understand the global challenge and the science behind the virus, has a research focus on the effectiveness of public health interventions.

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