Top British scientist quits as government adviser

LONDON — The director of the Wellcome Trust Jeremy Farrar has quit as an adviser to the British government, saying that the COVID-19 crisis is “a long way from over.” 

Farrar left the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) at the end of October, Sky News reported today. 

“The high levels of transmission seen in the U.K. remain concerning, but I stepped down as a participant of SAGE knowing ministers had been provided with most of the key science advice needed over the winter months,” said Farrar in a statement. 

The director of the charitable foundation said he wanted to focus his attention on Wellcome’s work such as ensuring the world is better prepared for future health crises. Farrar previously revealed that he considered resigning from SAGE in 2020. 

Farrar has called for a so-called “vaccine plus” strategy, which would see mask wearing in indoor spaces, flexible work times and ventilation strategies. In October he tweeted that this could prevent the need for the implementation of the so-called Plan B, which is what the government has said it would implement if the country is unable to cope with coronavirus cases. It would include mandatory masks, coronavirus passports and work from home guidance. 

Some experts believe that the U.K.’s increase in cases in comparison to other countries in Western Europe was the result of the U.K. abandoning most public health measures in July. The government has maintained that moving to Plan B is not yet necessary.

An internal Treasury impact assessment, obtained by POLITICO, warns that moving to Plan B would cost the economy between £11 billion and £18 billion in the period up until March 2022.

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