But, most of the scientists around the world, including those from Britain were skeptical about the 70 percent figure shown by the PHE and later by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which has resulted in Britain being totally isolated from the rest of the world.
Carl Heneghan, professor of evidence-based medicine at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Primary Care, expressed skepticism over the 70 percent figure.
He said: ‘I’ve been doing this job for 25 years and I can tell you can’t establish a quantifiable number in such a short time frame.’ He added ‘every expert is saying it’s too early to draw such an inference’.
Professor Heneghan said ‘I would want to have very clear evidence rather than “we think it’s more transmissible” so we can see if it is or not. It has massive implications, it’s causing fear and panic, but we should not be in this situation when the Government is putting out data that is unquantifiable.’
A top German virologist also heavily played down fears about Britain’s mutant virus strain. Christian Drosten said the 70 percent figure was ‘simply called that’, suggesting that preliminary scientific estimates might have been overblown by politicians.
‘I wonder whether a scientist gave an estimate, perhaps asked what he would say if he had to give a figure, and then it takes on a life of its own. Then it enters politics and politicians use this figure and the media takes it up,’ Drosten said.
‘Suddenly there’s a figure out there, 70 percent, and nobody even knows what it means,’ he told Deutschlandfunk radio.
‘The fact that top politicians are reciting scientific content to the media, saying that there’s been a mutation and that cases are growing by this and that much here and there, that’s unusual.’
Drosten, the director of virology at Berlin’s Charite Hospital and an often-quoted expert during the pandemic, also said it was unclear whether the surge in cases in Kent and the South East was really caused by the new strain at all.
Boris Johnson – The perfect scoundrel
It is now already a proven fact that the British Prime Minister has played the mutant virus card following the Brexit deal.
The growing skepticism about the so-called new strain of virus came as Johnson held crisis talks with ministers after France banned lorries carrying freight from the United Kingdom and countries around the world ended flights to Britain amid fears of the new coronavirus variant.
The British Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee after warnings of ‘significant disruption’ around the Channel ports in Kent.
Hauliers were urged to stay away from the area because of potential problems as the end of the Brexit transition period also looms on December 31.
Kent Police said they were implementing Operation Stack in a bid to ease potential congestion, while the Department for Transport said Manston Airport was also being prepared as another contingency measure against the anticipated level of disruption.
Countries including France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, and Bulgaria announced restrictions on UK travel following the disclosure that the highly infectious new strain is widespread across the South East of England.
The international crackdown came amid rising Tory anger over the Government’s latest coronavirus curbs as MPs demanded Parliament be recalled this week.
Former minister Sir Desmond Swayne said ‘it does have all the characteristics of the Government being bounced by the science, as it was right at the beginning of the arrangements when we first went into lockdown last March’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: ‘The arrangements for Christmas were explicitly voted on by Parliament. If they’re to be changed then in my view, Parliament should vote again.’
He added: ‘Parliament voted explicitly for a certain set of arrangements, it seems to be perfectly proper therefore that Parliament should be consulted when those are changed, irrespective of the Government acting in an emergency, nevertheless it’s perfectly proper to recall Parliament at the beginning of this week to at least ratify those changes.
‘Explain to us – we are after all a democracy, explain to the elected representatives the evidence that they have and why they’ve reached this decision.’
To be continued …