FACT CHECK: Did Public Health England Admit It ‘Cannot Scientifically Prove That COVID-19 Is Contagious’?
An image shared on Facebook claims Public Health England admitted it “cannot scientifically prove that COVID-19 is contagious.”
PHE has not made any such admission. The transmissibility of COVID-19 has been thoroughly proven through scientific studies.
The post shows what appears to be a screen grab of a message thread including a link to a March 18 article published on the website Humans Are Free bearing the headline: “Bombshell! Public Health England Admits It Cannot Scientifically Prove That COVID-19 Is Contagious.” The PHE is “an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care, and a distinct organisation with operational autonomy,” according to its website.
The article explains that the author filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, which, according to gov.uk, is an application that can be filed to request to “see recorded information held by public authorities.” The request was for information related to evidence proving that COVID-19 is “person-to-person transmissible.” PHE responded to the author that it did not hold the information specified in the request.
A copy of the FOI request and the response can be found on the U.K. government website. (RELATED: Viral Post Falsely Claims The First UK COVID-19 Vaccine Recipient Is A Crisis Actor)
The claim appears to stem from a misunderstanding of the PHE’s response to the FOI request. The response does not indicate that the PHE admitted it “cannot scientifically prove that COVID-19 is contagious.” It simply stated, “PHE can confirm it does not hold information in the way specified by your request.”
Check Your Fact searched the agency’s website, but found no instance of PHE admitting that it has no evidence the virus is contagious. A wider internet search likewise turned up no results of the agency making such an admission. Rather, PHE clearly states in a published guidance that “the main way coronavirus spreads is when someone who has coronavirus breathes, speaks, coughs or sneezes and another person breathes it in.”
The transmissibility of COVID-19 has been observed and is well documented by other health organizations as well. Scientific briefs establishing the contagious nature of COVID-19 have been published by the World Health Organization (WHO), The Lancet, the National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The virus is primarily spread from person to person through respiratory droplets during close physical contact, according to the CDC and the WHO. The two organizations have maintained this position since at least February 2020, according to published reports.