COVID-19: SAGE advisers have been sent suspicious packages, reveals member who's been targeted by anti-vaxxers

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Scientists advising the government about COVID-19 have been sent suspicious packages by people who think they are "making bad decisions", a member of SAGE has revealed.

Calum Semple, professor of child health and outbreak medicine at the University of Liverpool, said threats had come from "both extremes".

One message alleged he "kills wildlife for fun" - something he described as "particularly nasty".

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Prof Semple has often appeared on radio and TV, and he and colleagues have "attracted adverse attention", he said.

SAGE - the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - provides ministers with specialist advice, and those targeting its members "don't appreciate that SAGE is not a decision-making body", he added.

Speaking during a webinar hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine, Prof Semple was asked about being targeted by an anti-vaccination group.

"Didn't somebody post something along the lines that 'Calum kills wildlife for fun and lives in Birkenhead?'," he was asked.

Prof Semple confirmed that and added: "We are fortunate that the police are open to hearing from us and there's good liaison support for us when these threats are made. That was one particularly nasty event."

"There have been others since then and suspicious packages sent to SAGE members and myself," he continued.

"This comes from both extremes - people that feel that we're making bad decisions, and they don't appreciate that SAGE is not a decision-making body."

Prof Semple said his and other advisers' job is to answer "exam questions" posed by ministers and medics.

Actual policy decisions are not within their remit, he said, noting: "I've never been at a SAGE meeting where we've sat around drinking coffee saying 'wouldn't it be a jolly good idea if we closed the pubs?' That conversation has never and will never happen."

Rather, their work is about the likely effect on the pandemic of "construction versus schools versus large (sporting) matches", he said.

SAGE members present a "menu of likely impacts, and then it's for policymakers to make the decisions", he added.

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