Sir Jeremy Farrar quite SAGE at the end of October after criticising the Government for a lack of social restrictions to curb Covid’s spread
The eminent scientist who quit SAGE after condemning England’s laissez-faire response to the third Covid wave shared a series of critical tweets aimed at Government in the run-up to his resignation.
Sir Jeremy Farrar liked a post that accused ministers of seeing old people as ‘expendable’ at around the time he stood down from No10’s scientific advisory panel at the end of October.
On the same day, the distinguished epidemiologist endorsed a tweet slamming Tory MPs for not wearing masks in the Commons, which added: ‘Seriously no wonder our stats are so terrible.’
In the middle of October, Sir Jeremy liked a sarcastic post about rising Covid variants in Britain which read: ‘How could this happen in the face of mask wearing, ventilation, vaccine passports, preventing infection in school children… oh.’
In what appeared to be a thinly-veiled jibe at the lack of any social restrictions in England, he shared a story last Monday with the caption: ‘Honeybees use social distancing when mites threaten hives.’
Sir Jeremy has previously said he ‘seriously considered resigning from SAGE’ last year when ministers ignored the group’s calls for a fire-breaker lockdown last autumn at the start of the second wave.
He made the revelation in his book ‘Spike’ which was published earlier this year detailed the chaos inside No10 at the start of the pandemic.
But he was involved in his own controversy this year when it emerged he was one of the original ‘lab leak theory’ deniers, who described people who questioned Covid’s true origin as ‘conspiracy theorists’. He was also found to have ties to the lab in question.
Sir Jeremy claimed in a statement last night that he left SAGE to focus on his work at the world-famous Wellcome Institute in London, where he has been the director since 2013. But he warned that the UK’s current situation was ‘concerning’.
He had been publicly lobbying for a ‘Vaccine Plus’ strategy, which included tougher mask wearing rules, and expressed concern at the lack of measures introduced by Government to reduce the spread of the virus.
Quoting a MailOnline article on October 19, Sir Jeremy said: ‘Vaccine Plus. Please wear mask public transport now, in shops/indoor spaces, good ventilation, if possible flexible work-times, COVID/Flu vaccine, minor modifications now can prevent rises cases, deaths, new variants or need for Plan B. It is avoidable.’
Referencing a separate MailOnline story about rising cases on October 28, he repeated his call for action: ‘We can all help reduce chance of Plan B by wearing masks public transport, crowded indoor places, as good ventilation as possible, by staying home if symptoms, support for people who have to stay home, vaccine when offered & supporting NHS.’
In the middle of October, Sir Jeremy ‘liked’ a sarcastic post about rising Covid variants in Britain which read: ‘How could this happen in the face of mask wearing, ventilation, vaccine passports, preventing infection in school children… oh’
He was the sole ‘liker’ a post which accused ministers of seeing old people as ‘expendable’ at around the time he stood down from No10’s scientific advisory panel at the end of October
In what appeared to be a thinly-veiled jibe at the lack of any social restrictions in England, he shared a story last Monday with the caption: ‘Honeybees use social distancing when mites threaten hives’ (shown top)
Sir Jeremy claimed in a statement last night that he left SAGE to focus on his work at the Wellcome Institute. But he had been publicly lobbying for a ‘Vaccine Plus’ strategy, which included tougher mask wearing rules (shown above, Sir Jeremy quotes a MailOnline article on October 19) and expressed concern at the lack of restrictions in place
Referencing a separate MailOnline story on October 28 which included quotes from Sir Patrick Vallance, Sir Jeremy repeated his call for action
SAGE has recommended that ministers go ‘hard and early’ with restrictions like masks, vaccine passports and working from home to avoid a big winter wave.
The Government has set out these measures as part of its Covid winter ‘Plan B’ but does not feel that the NHS is under ‘unsustainable’ pressure yet — despite cases running at nearly peak-second-wave levels.
Sir Jeremy said in a statement last night that he quit SAGE knowing that ‘ministers had been provided with most of the key science advice needed over the winter months’.
But in a warning shot to ministers, he said: ‘The Covid crisis is a long way from over, with the global situation deeply troubling. The high levels of transmission seen in the UK remain concerning.’
England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said he did not ‘read any more signal’ into Sir Jeremy’s resignation, other than that the scientist wants to concentrate on other work.
He told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think it’s very clear he felt that a lot of the information that the Government need to have from scientists has now been given, and he recognised the need that he had to really re-focus on his work at the Wellcome Trust.
Sir Jeremy Farrar: The cricket-loving scientist who helped tackle SARS and Covid
Sir Jeremy Farrar is a Singapore-born scientist who dedicated his career to researching and improving public health.
He lived in Cyprus, New Zealand and Libya during his childhood before moving to the UK as a teenager, according to the Wellcome Trust, where he is director.
He earned a degree in immunology and medicine from University College London (UCL) and a doctorate in neuroimmunology from the University of Oxford before training as a doctor.
Sir Jeremy led the Clinical Research Unit at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, for 18 years, where he was on the front line battling potential human pandemics including Sars.
In 2004, the scientist identified the re-emergence of deadly bird flu in humans, alongside his Vietnamese colleague Tran Tinh Hien, according to a 2014 Financial Times interview with the doctor.
He joined the Wellcome Trust medical foundation as director in 2013.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Sir Jeremy served as a member of Sage, the UK Vaccine Taskforce and the ACT-Accelerator, which is a global effort co-ordinated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to accelerate the development of vaccines and tests and ensure equitable distribution.
According to the Wellcome website, Sir Jeremy has argued that everyone, including those in less developed countries, should benefit equally from scientific advances in the fight against coronavirus.
An internationally recognised figure, the scientist was named 12th in the Fortune list of the greatest global leaders in 2015, and he is also a fellow of several leading medical bodies including the Royal Society and the European Molecular Biology Organisation.
In 2019, Sir Jeremy was knighted for services to global health.
He lives in Oxford with his wife, children and two dogs, and is passionate about cricket, including as a player for Steeple Aston Cricket Club.
‘It’s a tribute to Sir Jeremy and so many other scientists that they have supported us so hard and for so long and given such invaluable, independent advice.
‘So I don’t think I read any more signal in that than that Sir Jeremy recognised that most of the advice have been given, and he really needed to focus back on the Wellcome Trust.’
Asked if the Government is listening to everything that scientists are putting to it at the moment, Professor Van-Tam said: ‘The Government has to listen to scientists, it has to listen to all sorts of advice from other places, and it has to make really very difficult decisions about what the best course of action is.
‘Science is really important, so is the economy, so is the functioning of society, so these these are just tricky decisions, there are no easy choices left and, frankly, there haven’t been for a couple of years now.’
Sir Jeremy, an Oxford and University College London-educated scientist, had been one of the the driving forces behind the scientific advice that has guided the UK through the pandemic.
But he was embroiled in controversy for being one of the original ‘lab leak’ deniers who penned a letter in the Lancet in early 2020 that effectively shut down scientific debate into Covid’s origin.
The row was reignited this summer when it emerged that he and 25 others who signed the letter had ties to the Wuhan Institute of Virology, where the leak was suspected.
The letter branded the lab leak hypothesis a conspiracy, but Sir Jeremy has since softened his stance on the back of numerous reports of a Chinese cover-up.
In a tweet on October 30, Sir Jeremy referenced a BBC article titled: ‘Covid-19 origins may never be known, US intelligence agencies say.’
He wrote: ‘I am more optimistic on identifying origins if there is open mind, international cooperation, data from the markets & animal trade routes, legal & illegal, early human cases & lab data. Plus continued work in animal sector & humans.
The previous day, he tweeted that there was a ‘critical need’ to ensure ‘labs are transparent and safe’, adding: ‘This needs international cooperation, sharing of information and trust.’
It comes as figures yesterday revealed that the UK’s daily coronavirus cases have started to fall again after a brief blip — but hospital admissions and deaths continue to rise.
There were 33,865 new infections across the country in the past 24 hours to Tuesday, according to the Department of Health’s daily update, marking a 17.3 per cent fall on the previous week.
Covid cases were slightly inflated last week because of a recording issue in Wales, which means the true week-on-week decline will be less sharp. Daily infections in England dipped below 30,000 for the first time in four weeks today.
Infections had fallen for eight days in a row until yesterday, which was believed to be due to less testing during half-term. But there is growing optimism that rising immunity levels in children will keep infections at bay even as schools go back.
Meanwhile, latest hospital data shows there were 1,002 UK hospitalisations on October 29, which marked the fifth day in a row of four-digit admissions.
The DOH said there were also 293 deaths registered across Britain on Tuesday, the highest number since March 3, when there were 315.
But yesterday’s tally ‘potentially’ includes two days’ worth of data from England, the department said, which will have skewed the toll. Hospital admissions and deaths are both lagging indicators.
The Government’s Covid dashboard shows that more than 50million Britons have now had their first Covid vaccine. Around 45.7m have had two and 8.4m have had their booster third dose.