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Government decisions on coronavirus 'shrouded with secrecy' top scientist warns as public ordered to go back to work

MAJOR decisions about coronavirus have been “shrouded with secrecy,” a leading scientist warned today as he called for more transparency over policies concerning the pandemic. 

Francis Crick Institute director Sir Paul Nurse said that the government should “treat the public as adults” in its communications over Covid-19.

He said that many important decisions throughout the pandemic had been made in a “black box” of scientists, civil servants and politicians.

Sir Paul told the BBC’s Today programme: “At the height of the infection I was at a select committee in April and a public health person […] was saying all the testing needed for the NHS was in place.

“Yet we showed at the Francis Crick, at that time, 45 per cent of front-line healthcare [workers] were infected and they were not being tested because capacity was inadequate.

“Now, that isn’t a way to earn trust from the public. We need openness, transparency, scrutiny, and a leadership of people taking responsibility for the decision making, and we need it now.”

Downing Street rejected the criticism.

The comments came at the beginning of the first working week under new coronavirus guidance from Prime Minister Boris Johnson. 

Under the guidance, employees are advised to return to their place of work, but the responsibility of declaring workplaces “Covid secure” lies only with employers.

Even those who have been told they are  extremely clinically vulnerable can potentially be asked to return to work.

Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) accused the government of “playing fast and loose” with workers’ safety.

General secretary Mark Serwotka said: “No-one should be returning to a workplace until it has been made safe to do so.

“Current scientific advice is that people should work from home where they can.

“Boris Johnson is risking industrial unrest by pursuing this policy and our union will support members who believe that their workplace is unsafe to return to.”

Labour’s shadow employment and rights protection secretary Andy McDonald said that years of cuts to inspectors mean that rules on health and safety are difficult to enforce. 

“The government must work closely with workers and trade unions to implement clearer rules and a plan for how they will be enforced in order to give workers and businesses confidence they will be safe,” he said.

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