SCIENTIFIC transparency, doomsayers and how we have changed our consumption of culture were the issues debated by columnists and contributors in the newspapers.

The Guardian

Sonia Sodha reflected on the ‘defining moment of the BSE crisis - when the then agriculture minister, John Gummer, fed his five-year-old daughter a burger on camera in 1990 in an attempt to prove that beef was safe to eat.

“Six years later, the government admitted there was a link between eating infected beef and the brain disease vCJD, though thankfully the numbers affected were relatively small,” she said. “Nevertheless, the scandal eroded public trust in government public health messaging.”

She said the ‘Gummer moment’ should serve as a warning to politicians about what happens when they patronise the public with advice not backed up by science - such as Boris Johnson saying he was still shaking hands on March 3 and that public events were safe to go ahead.

“The public inquiry into the BSE scandal resulted in a 16-volume report that called for greater transparency in the production and use of scientific advice, and for the public to be treated like grownups who can understand uncertainty,” she said. “Twenty years later, those lessons appear to have been forgotten. The government’s science advisers are repeating the mistakes of the BSE crisis – confusing a lack of evidence of risk or benefit for a lack of risk or benefit altogether.”

She said behavioural scientist, Peter Lunn, told her that, in his experience, scientists tend to be more strident in communicating evidence if they know it will chime with what politicians want to hear.

“This is why there needs to be more transparency about the processes through which scientific advice feeds into decision making.”

The Daily Express

Virginia Blackburn said there are optimistic signs right now - lockdown is easing, restaurants are opening and there are real hopes of a vaccine.

“But not for some people, [there aren’t],” she said. “Never one to fail to turn a drama into a crisis, there are some naysayers out there who are so pessimistic we might all just as well return to bed, draw a duvet over our head and stay there until Armageddon.”

She cited Laurie Garrett, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting on Ebola in 1995, and said this week that life will never, ever be the same again.

“There is no normal,” she said. “This is the new reality. We will all have to suffer. Suffer very badly, that is. I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but if you hadn’t wanted to slit your wrists before thatlittle ray of sunshine appeared, chances are you’d have been groping in the kitchen drawer for the sharpest instrument available after that.”

She said they are all predicting that come the autumn they are all predicting we might as well see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse riding in.

“This is not the Black Death and it is not Ebola,” she said. “Young people are hardly affected at all. The healthy middle-aged are mainly fine. Some people don’t even know they’ve had it, the symptoms are so mild.”

But she didn’t want to deny people have been suffering, she said.

“This too shall pass,” she said. “My philosophy is this: my champagne glass is always half full. Be of cheer. It’s always the darkest hour before the dawn.”

The Independent

Anna Cale said the pandemic had brought tv and theatre productions to a shuddering halt.

“A new approach to creating content has begun to emerge from the ruins of normality,” she said. “Creative output has become more intimate, with a focus on individual experiences replacing high production values. This could lead to a small screen revolution, paving the way for permanent changes to the way we tell and share stories.”

She said the recent run of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads was a case in point.

“The effects of watching an intimate, single-handed drama unfold on our screens when we ourselves were isolated brought additional poignancy,” she added.

“There has also been an increase in artist-driven content, as performers have taken the opportunity to create their own output and engage directly with their audience through social media.”

Television drama had, she argued, been a slave to high concept, flagship programming.

“It feels as though we are standing on the edge of a creative revolution. We can either take a leap into the unknown and embrace the creative changes made possible by the pandemic, or step back into familiar territory and put the barriers up again.”