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An open letter that made headlines calling for a herd immunity approach to Covid-19 lists a number of apparently fake names among its expert signatories, including “Dr Johnny Bananas” and “Professor Cominic Dummings”.
The Great Barrington declaration, which was said to have been signed by more than 15,000 scientists and medical practitioners around the world, was found by Sky News to contain numerous false names, as well as those of several homeopaths.
Others listed include a resident at the “university of your mum” and another supposed specialist whose name was the first verse of the Macarena.
Sky News discovered 18 self-declared homeopaths in the list of expert names and more than 100 therapists whose expertise included massage, hypnotherapy and Mongolian khoomii singing.
The declaration drew widespread attention this week when it called for an easing of lockdown measures, allowing most people to return to normal life while protecting the most vulnerable.
Individual academics from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Stanford, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Sussex and York were among experts from around the world who signed the declaration. However, the declaration’s website allows anyone to add their name to the list if they provide an email address, home city, postcode and name.
Signatories also tell the site whether they are a medical and public health scientist, a medical practitioner or a member of the general public – of whom almost 160,000 claim to have signed.
It is not clear how many of the names in the declaration’s list of experts are fake, or when they appeared. However, many scientists have already criticised the letter’s conclusions.
Dr Michael Head, a senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, said the declaration was “a very bad idea” and doubted that vulnerable people would be able to avoid the virus if it was allowed to become widespread.
“Ultimately, the Barrington Declaration is based on principles that are dangerous to national and global public health,” said Head.
Prof Jeremy Rossman, of the University of Kent, pointed out that research suggested protective antibody responses might “decay rapidly” and that there have been cases of reinfection of the virus.
The chief executive of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, has said asking all over-65s to shield to slow the transmission of the second wave of coronavirus would be “age-based apartheid”.
The declaration has also been accused of ignoring the growing evidence on long Covid, whereby thousands of fit and young people who contract the virus have been left with debilitating symptoms months after a mild infection.
The declaration calls for an approach it describes as “focused protection”, arguing that keeping lockdowns in place until a vaccine is available “will cause irreparable damage, with the underprivileged disproportionately harmed”.
Source: The Guardian
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