Oxford University academics are among over 100 scientists who have signed an open letter to the government, asking them to avoid easing lockdown prematurely. 

The letter, written by St Hilda’s Professor Aris Katzourakis, Professor of Evolution and Genomics and Co-President of Oxford UCU, has 18 Oxford scientists among its 100 signatures. This includes Christ Church’s Professor Kayla King and Merton’s Professor Thomas Richards. It was initially circulated via Twitter and has since been published by Times Higher Education

The scientists work in a diverse range of fields including genomics, microbiology, and biochemistry, and form part of a wider plea from scientists across the country warning the government of the dangers of underestimating the long-term effects of coronavirus. 

The letter notes that the UK is second only to the US in number of deaths globally and have “a higher death rate per million than the US itself”. It writes that “we are still in a situation where there is substantial community transmission”, and that government plans to substantially ease social distancing measures will “bring us back to a situation where the outbreak is once again out of control.”

It continues: “As a group of UK-based scientists, we urge the government to reconsider, and to follow the science, postponing the relaxation of lockdown. The level of community transmission is still far too high for lockdown to be released, and should not be attempted before we have a substantial and sustained further drop in community transmission.”

Professor Katzourakis noted on Twitter that he hoped that the government would “follow the science and not end the lockdown prematurely”. His letter said that the UK needs “effective test, track and trace capacity to be implemented, transparent reporting of new case diagnoses in community and primary care settings on a daily basis, and the implementation of routine screening for high-risk key worker professions.”

The letter has not yet received a response from government health officials.