Covid-19 and public health

BMJ covid-19 webinars, November 2020 to November 2021

Co-curated for the BMJ by Prof George Davey-Smith and Prof Allyson Pollock


09 March 2022. Allyson Pollock ‘In Discussion With’ Christine Clark (2) Mass testing – in theory and practice. Medical Update Online, International Medical Information

08 March 2022. Allyson Pollock ‘In Discussion With’ Christine Clark (1) Evidence-based public health: covid control measures. Medical Update Online, International Medical Information

29 January 2022; from 04:50: evidence and policy responses
20 January 2022. How are we going to live with covid in 2022 – and in the future?

07 January 2022. Review of child vaccination programme: letter to Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation

02 December 2021. Pollock AM. Presentation. As covid continues its tour of Europe, what is the public health evidence for covid passes?

The BMJ’s covid-19 webinars (next: 13 January 2022 – Non-pharmaceutical interventions)

14 July 2021. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Authorisation of special use of DHSC COVID-19 self-test kit, 28 May 2021.

10 June 2021. Stop using Innova SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Qualitative Test: FDA safety communication

01 June 2021. Citizen petition to US Food & Drug Administration: efficacy and safety measures for COVID-19 vaccines

31 May 2021. Freedom of Information requests to MHRA re DHSC lateral flow test

29 May 2021. Statement from the DHSC: MHRA approval of covid-19 lateral flow tests

27 May 2021. Letter to the Infected Blood Inquiry about the use of lateral flow tests.

25 May 2021. Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Authorisation of special use of DHSC COVID-19 self-test kit, 22 December 2020.

22 May 2021. Email to Dr June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. Misuse of lateral flow tests

Letter from Lord Bethell to Bill Wiggin MP. 11 December 2020: “We are not currently planning mass asymptomatic testing … Widespread asymptomatic testing could undermine the value of testing …”

Publications and reports

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 31 March 2022. Byrne P, Harding-Edgar L, Pollock AM. SARS-CoV-2: public health measures for managing the transition to endemicity. download

Collateral Global. 22 February 2022. Pollock AM. Mass testing: expensive, chaotic, and wasteful.

The Telegraph. 06 January 2022. Pollock AM. It’s time to end Covid mass testing.

Briefing note for House of Lords. 19 July 2021. Hayes L, Pollock AM. Mandatory vaccination will not make care home residents safe from covid, it is unnecessary, and data underpinning the Government’s case is unreliable.

BMJ Opinion. 11 July 2021. Pollock AM, Roderick P. Why all the secrecy around Innova lateral flow tests?

BMJ 08 July 2021. Hayes L, Pollock AM. Mandatory covid-19 vaccination for care home workers. download

The Guardian. 12 May 2021. Pollock AM. Test-and-trace workers are paying the price for the government’s outsourcing zeal.

Theory & Struggle. March 2021. Pollock AM, Harding-Edgar L. Covid-19 and public health. download

BMJ. 23 February 2021. Lewis SJ, Munro APS, Davey Smith G, Pollock AM. Closing schools is not evidence based and harms children. download

BMJ Opinion. 09 February 2021. Pollock AM. Testing, testing…for SARS-CoV-2 in asymptomatic people.

BMJ Opinion. 19 January 2021. Davey Smith G, Blastland M, Pollock AM. Responding to the “known unknowns” of covid-19

Briefing note for journalists on harm from continued rollout of the Innova lateral flow test. 10 January 2021. Deeks J, Raffle A, Gill M. download

BMJ. 21 December 2020. Pollock AM, Lancaster J. Asymptomatic transmission of covid-19. download

Med. 18 December 2020. Nkengasong J, Iwasaki A, Victoria C … Pollock AM et al. The global response to the COVID-19 pandemic. download

BMJ Opinion. 17 December 2020. Roderick P. Transparency in approving covid-19 vaccines

BMJ Opinion. 08 December 2020. Roderick P. Is it lawful to require self-isolation after a positive covid-19 test?

Briefing note on the application of mass testing in the university setting. 27 November 2020. Relton C, Raffle A, McCartney M, Deeks J. download

Briefing on Operation Moonshot screening for SARS-CoV-2. 15 November 2020. Deeks J, Pollock AM, Taylor-Phillips S, Raffle AE.

Independent SAGE. 13 November 2020. Bambra C, Hayre J, Pollock AM, Brown H. COVID-19 and health inequality. download

BMJ Opinion. 09 Nov 2020. Raffle AE. Screening the healthy population for covid-19 is of unknown value, but is being introduced nationwide.

Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 28 October 2020. Harding-Edgar L, McCartney M, Pollock AM. Test and trace strategy has overlooked importance of clinical input, clinical oversight and integration. download

BMJ editorial. 22 September 2020. Deeks JJ, Brookes AJ, Pollock AM. Operation Moonshot proposals are scientifically unsound. download

Tribune. 21 August 2020. Pollock AM. Track, trace and the myth of private sector efficiency.

BMJ editorial. 20 August 2020. Raffle AE, Pollock AM, Harding-Edgar L. Covid-19 mass testing programmes. download

The Guardian. 31 July 2020. Pollock AM. Thanks to outsourcing, England’s test and trace system is in chaos.

All Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus. 24 July 2020. Roderick P. Submission to APPG on Coronavirus

BMJ Opinion. 21 July 2020. Khunti K, Pollock AM, Pareek M. Find, test, trace, isolate and support programmes need to be localised and culturally tailored to reach ethnic minority populations.

House of Lords Science & Technology Committee. 17 July 2020. Pollock AM. Response: The science of COVID-19, 12th evidence session (29 Jun 20). download

New Statesman. 01 July 2020. Pollock AM. Spending cuts and privatisation have left us without a functioning social care system.

BMJ. 25 June 2020. Roderick P, Pollock AM, Macfarlane A. Getting back on track: control of covid-19 outbreaks in the community. download

Tribune. 22 June 2020. Pollock AM, Clements L, Harding-Edgar L. Why we need a national care service – and how to build one. .

Wales Centre for Public Policy. June 2020. Recovery from COVID-19: note of the expert roundtable on public services.

Daily Mail. 11 June 2020. Pollock AM. They died alone and frightened, victims of a broken system that shames us all.

Advice note for Independent SAGE. 05 June 2020. Raffle AE, Taylor-Phillips S. Test, test, test: lessons learned from experience with mass screening programmes. download

The Independent SAGE report 28 May 2020. When should a school reopen? download

Scottish Left Review. 18 May 2020. Pollock AM, Harding-Edgar L. Coronavirus crisis: underfunding, restructuring, privatisation and fragmentation at the heart of the crisis in Holyrood and Westminster.

The Independent SAGE report. 12 May 2020. COVID-19: what are the options for the UK? Recommendations for government based on an open and transparent examination of the scientific evidence. download

BMJ Opinion. 07 May 2020. Coleman MP, Di Carlo V, Ashton JR, Pollock AM, Matz M, Allemani C. Reliable, real-world data on excess mortality are required to assess the impact of covid-19.

The Observer. 26 April 2020. Pollock AM, Roderick P. To tackle this virus, local public health teams need to take back control.

Scottish Centre on European Relations. 23 April 2020. Pollock AM, Harding-Edgar L. Coronavirus crisis: underfunding, restructuring, privatisation and fragmentation at the heart of the crisis in Holyrood and Westminster. download

BMJ editorial. 14 April 2020. Pollock AM, Clements L, Harding-Edgar L. Covid-19: why we need a national health and social care service. download

BMJ editorial. 30 March 2020. Pollock AM, Roderick P, Brhlikova P. Covid-19: why is the UK government ignoring WHO’s advice? Testing and tracing must resume urgently. download

Letter to BMJ: Covid-19: local implementation of tracing and testing programmes could enable some schools to reopen: I am increasingly concerned about the apparent failure to implement fundamental public health measures to tackle the covid-19 outbreak—specifically, community contact tracing, clinical observation, and testing … read at the BMJ (may require login) or on this site

We need hands-on public health expertise to tackle COVID-19: The government has released its scientific evidence, which sheds light on the fiasco and the catastrophe that is unfolding economically, socially, and health wise. It also highlights the lack of public health input and the decimation of the speciality and expertise in communicable disease control prior to and after the Health & Social Care Act 2012. There appears to be no public health evidence from experienced physicians in communicable disease control and their teams. … read more

Liverpool mass testing, 06 November 2020

Letter of support from Doctors in Unite

Statement from Dr Angela E Raffle

Correspondence with Liverpool University re testing

The UK has over 20 years experience of delivering evidence-based, systematic, high quality screening programmes, which deliver more good than harm at affordable cost.

This experience tells us that if you embark on a screening programme without having carefully evaluated it first, without a proper quality assured pathway, without certainty of test performance in field settings, without full information for participants, and without the means to ensure that the intervention needed for those with positive results does indeed take place, then you will end up with an expensive mess that does more harm than good.

From what we can tell, the current proposals for screening the City of Liverpool using SARS-CoV-2 rapid tests are not fit for purpose.

  • It is called a ‘pilot’ yet there appears to be no research design.
  • There is no concrete evidence that screening of this nature is helpful in outbreak control.
  • It appears to have no system design for who is eligible, how they will be contacted, how they get results, what advice they will be given, how this will be followed up, and how this will be integrated with test and trace and with local health and social care services.
  • The tests being proposed are new and there is little data about their performance in field settings, so therefore many people will be given false results.
  • The harm from false results includes unnecessary isolation (for false positives), and false reassurance with potentially riskier behaviour (for false negatives).

Our concerns are that the Liverpool screening will fail to realise any benefit, and will cause harm through diversion of resources – including by distracting from solving the problems with the test and trace programme.

Letter to Liverpool MPs, 05 November 2020


COVID 19: known unknowns. Facing up to scientific uncertainty during a pandemic. 08:45-19:45, 20 November 2020. BBC, 28 July 2020. Disclosure: The care home scandal

CNBC, 15 May 2020. Coronavirus can’t be suppressed unless governments put out local outbreaks

Watch the Independent SAGE, chaired by Sir David King, 04 May 2020.
For more, see

CGTN Dialogue, 19:30 Apr 24 2020 (minute 22)

Listen to The Telegraph. Coronavirus: The Latest. 22 April 2020

Watch The Covid Report, chaired by Afua Hirsch, 14 April 2020
Watch The Covid Report, chaired by Paul Mason and Afua Hirsch, 08 April 2020

Independent SAGE

Email, Allyson Pollock to SAGE members, 05 October 2020

Contacting public bodies and politicians

14 April 2020, Orkney MP Liam McArthur seeks clarification about localised approach to tackling coronavirus

Letter to the Scottish Government, 07 April 2020. “… I have still not had a reply to my letter of 21 March 2020. It is a generally shared view of me and my colleagues in public health that re-establishing intense contact tracing is essential at local level if we are to enable children to return to education and control measures to be lifted in different parts of the country. …Of course it goes without saying that I would be happy to offer help and support. I will be writing to you separately about residents in long term care settings where the situation is extremely troubling.”

Response from Public Health Wales, 02 April 2020, on contact tracing and testing … view

Sample email to local authority or other responsible organisation on contact tracing and testing: Peter Roderick to Public Health Wales, 30 March 2020

Write to your local MPs, councillors and mayors about following WHO advice … read more

Letter to the North of Tyne Combined Authority, 23 March 2020: The purpose of this letter is to urge you as soon as possible to do everything you can to make the case with your local authority colleagues and Public Health England to institute an immediate and meticulous contact tracing and testing programme in each local authority within the NoTCA area, and more widely in the North East. … read more

Letter to the Scottish Government, 21 March 2020: I urge the Scottish government immediately to institute a massive centrally-coordinated, locally-based contact tracing and testing programme … read more

Draft parliamentary questions on contact tracing and testing, 20 March 2020