Dear Mr Johnson,
We, UK Citizens Pandemic Action Group, (UCPAG), refer to our member’s letter to the Department of Health and Social Care dated 5 February 2020, expressing concern that, unlike so many other countries, the UK remains completely unrestricted to the entry of infectious persons directly from China, despite an impending COVID-19 pandemic.
As you will, no doubt, be aware, most non-EU countries have the benefit of travel suspensions and restrictions, including, now, restrictions relating to arrivals from Italy, Iran, Thailand, Japan and South Korea. There is also screening and temperature checking at the border of all countries, (apart from the UK), as recommended by the WHO.
Regrettably, the response we received from the DHSC was not very satisfactory - it essentially stated that Professor Chris Whitty had advised that our borders should remain wide open and that the government’s response was based on this advice, and was proportionate.
It also stated in the response that the NHS is well-prepared, although, clearly, that is very far from the opinion of those on the ground who, amongst other things, are deeply concerned about lack of beds, lack of staff, lack of oxygen and lack of ventilators. Furthermore, it is difficult to reconcile this statement with the contradictory message from the NHS that doctors will be forced to choose which patients to treat.
We have noticed that the government has, at least some instances, been quoting from a 2010 influenza protocol. However, as you will be well aware, Coronavirus is considerably more contagious than the flu and has a substantially higher mortality rate.
It is not evident to us from any documents that we have seen that Professor Whitty is a specialist in the field of infectious disease epidemiology. However, even if he is, we would respectfully suggest that such advice, if given, is deeply flawed and very different to that of other experts in the field, as there appears to be an international consensus amongst epidemiologists in infectious disease that robust action should be taken to slow the spread of a pandemic.
We have not spoken to a single member of the public who agrees with the position taken by the government in respect of incoming flights, and, moreover, it is clear to us that many people are now becoming very worried indeed, if not panic-stricken, because you do not appear to be taking any decisive action at all to slow the spread of the virus, as so many other countries have done. We would respectfully remind you that you have a duty of care to us and that there are only 15 ECMO beds in the UK, meaning that, if robust measures are not taken now to slow the spread of the pandemic, there is likely to be very considerable loss of life.
In making this statement, we rely on the fact that such evidence as is available suggests that 20% of those infected by COVID-19 will require intensive care, if not more.
Moreover, it would appear that, as a direct result of the government’s laidback approach, a significant percentage of the population remains uninformed and completely unprepared, both psychologically and practically, for the impending storm. We have heard it said, for example, that there cannot be any real threat to the British public or the government would have closed the borders.
In the circumstances, we should be grateful to hear from you as a matter of urgency with confirmation that Professor Whitty’s advice remains unchanged, and that the government will not be implementing any restrictions within the next seven days in respect of the entry to the UK of passengers from countries at high risk of Coronavirus, as we are presently in the process of submitting an application for judicial review of the government’s decision on the grounds, inter alia, that it is manifestly unreasonable and will lead to vastly increased loss of life.
We should be grateful if you would pass copies of this letter to the NHS England Chief Executive, the NHS England Incident Director, and the NHS England Accountable Emergency Officer, as they will need to consider its content and diarise it in their log.
We should also be grateful if you would email us a copy of Professor Whitty’s report and any other expert’s report relied upon by the government in support of its position that travel restrictions are unwarranted. (Incidentally, it would appear that the WHO altered its position in this regard more than a week ago).
Finally, we would respectfully refer you to the opinion of Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at Nottingham University, who has recently stated as follows: “This report needs serious consideration by the authorities. The only chance we have — a chance that seems to be fading by the day — to stop this virus appearing in the UK in larger numbers is to ensure that anyone turning up here with the virus is identified quickly and isolated”.
UCPAG, (UK CITIZENS’ PANDEMIC ACTION GROUP)