Does anyone have a good word for Fernando Simón? Not if they’re in the tourism industry, they don’t. Health minister Salvador Illa had a go but didn’t convince. Simón was speaking as an “epidemiologist”. Which we all knew anyway. It was what he said that was the problem, thanking Belgium and the UK for discouraging citizens from travelling to Spain. There was a time during the pandemic when the scientists’ words (and those of health authorities) were everything. Policy was being driven by the data and “what the scientists are telling us”. These scientists, normally closeted away in laboratories, were suddenly facing the glare of the media and fearful citizens. But there came a point when they began to return to their laboratories. Daily briefings ceased. The politicians took over. It was time for the new normal.

The data and the science didn’t disappear but seemed to have been relegated in the reactivation frenzy. Less was seen of Simón. In the UK, Chris Whitty, who had spoke as an “epidemiologist” and Chief Medical Officer, abandoned the briefing podium.

Did Simón and Whitty ever communicate with each other? Do they communicate with each other? One asks because they have both made dramatic returns to the spotlight, Whitty’s having been disclosed by UK government-friendly media. It was Whitty who had insisted on the quarantine. Which he may well have done, but given the rumpus over the UK’s decision, this belated and renewed recognition of “what the scientists are telling us” has a slight air of convenience.


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