Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson

What Covid coverage gets wrong

(Photo: Getty)

Throughout the Covid pandemic, the BBC’s coverage has strictly followed what is now known as ‘official science’ – with journalists not asking questions, but just reporting what they are told. This has especially been the case when it comes to ignorance of existing research on respiratory viruses.

This week saw the BBC report on the latest fantastic revelation when it comes to Covid: that respiratory viruses, specifically SARS-CoV-2, ‘survive’ for days on certain types of surfaces and foodstuffs, from pastries to canned products.

The news comes from a Food Standard Agency laboratory study carried out using credible methods: viral cultures.

But the final paragraph of the study’s discussion page hints that something is not quite right:

‘The public may be interested in the finding that virus may persist in an infectious state, on foods and food packaging surfaces, for several days under certain common conditions. There is the possibility of transmission through contaminated food if the food is in direct contact with the mouth and mucus membranes. The potential implications for public health are unclear since inhalation of respiratory aerosols and droplets is considered to be the main route of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.’

Readers familiar with Covid’s transmission riddles will know by now that these statements are hostages to fortune; saying that aerosol spread is the ‘main route’ of Covid transmission would need a lot more evidence than is presently available, whereas fomites (objects which carry infections) so far tick more boxes when it comes to transmission.

So if we are to follow the evidence, it seems like the reverse is actually the case. The discussion of the study should instead say, ‘how does such high-quality evidence from laboratory and human observations fit with certainty that inhalation of respiratory aerosols and droplets are the main route of SARS-CoV-2 transmission?’

In their report of the study, does the BBC put this study into the context of transmission? No.

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