Lords Committee to launch inquiry on science of COVID-19
he House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has announced that it will conduct an inquiry into various scientific and technological aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The focus of this inquiry will be forward looking, aiming to help Government and society learn from the current pandemic and better prepare for future epidemics caused by this and other viruses. The inquiry will begin with its first topic in the coming weeks and is likely to last until December.
Lord Patel, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said:
"There are so many statements about COVID-19 that conflict with each other, which can increase public anxiety. This inquiry will look at the facts, focusing on what we do know about this virus, identifying the gaps in our knowledge and how science can help.
“We will examine the issues at the heart of the public's anxiety, including how the virus works and spreads, testing, new treatments, vaccines and other key matters, calling upon the best available scientific information from around the world.”
The Committee will take evidence from UK and international experts on the scientific understanding of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as well as the technology involved in preventing, diagnosing and treating the virus. The Committee will seek to identify research opportunities in epidemiology, medical care and basic science.
By adopting this focus, the Committee intends to offer valuable insight, whilst other Parliamentary Committees cover the political, economic and social implications of the crisis.
The Committee will be advised by leading immunologist Professor Sir Robert Lechler, President of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Vice Principal (Health) at King's College London.
In order to reach rapid and useful conclusions, the Committee will take oral evidence, but not issue a call for written evidence. However, the Committee does welcome concise (one-page) submissions of scientific evidence related to the following areas:
Virology and research needs:
- The nature of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including its structure, genome, antigenic properties and likely origin.
Epidemiology, modelling and testing:
- The modes of transmission of the virus among people, including modelling of the epidemiology and the impact of social-distancing policies on the spread.
- Diagnostic tests for the virus, including PCR (nucleic acid) tests and antibody tests: their accuracy, reliability, supply and distribution.
Vaccines and treatments:
- Vaccines, including obstacles to be overcome in the case of SARS-CoV-2 and methods for speeding up and increasing the success rate of vaccine development.
- Therapeutic treatments for Covid-19, including antiviral drugs, monoclonal antibodies and convalescent plasma.
Technology and global preparedness:
- Digital technology and data analytics, including the role they can play in testing and tracing contacts and implications for privacy.