COVID-19: Are we being experimented on?

A number of governments around the world, including the UK, are implementing very strict "lockdown" measures in response to SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus) and the related COVID-19 disease. Such draconian measures in response to a viral outbreak are experimental in nature as they have not been seen before. As with any experiment performed on people, informed consent must be sought. This article discusses the lack of informed consent and its implications.


Designing the Experiment

As a child I was always interested in experiments, some were even slightly scientific. As I went through my formal education I began to better understand how an experiment should be designed and conducted, which included the requirement of a hypothesis to be tested.

The definition of an experiment varies depending on where you look, but essentially, and in layman's terms, it is the trying out of a new idea or method in order to see what it is like and what effects it has.1

An experiment is the trying out of a new idea or method in order to see what it is like and what effects it has.

On 23 March 2020, the UK Prime Minister (PM) gave an instruction to the British people that they "must stay at home" as it is his belief that in doing so it will "stop the disease spreading between households" (Hypothesis). He gave a very short list of "limited purposes" why people will only be allowed to leave their homes, which are:

  • shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • one form of exercise a day - for example a run, walk, or cycle - alone or with members of your household
  • any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Mr Johnston stated that these activities "are the only reasons you should leave your home." He went further to instruct "you should not be meeting friends or family members who do not live in your home, should not be shopping except for essentials like food and medicine and should do so as little as possible, using food delivery services where you can." He then threatened that if the "rules" are not followed the police will have powers to enforce them, and to "ensure compliance" he will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship, and will stop all gatherings of more than two people in public (excluding people you live with) and stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies (excluding funerals).

The UK Government followed this up by implementing a number of pieces of legislation to attempt to enforce the above. This included wording that "during the emergency period, no person may leave the place where they are living without reasonable excuse", with the exceptions to the rule ("reasonable excuses") being listed.2 These restrictions are now widely referred to as "lockdown."

Precedent for Lockdown

Other countries in the world have adopted different approaches to the UK lockdown measures. One such country is Sweden, who have adopted a strategy commonly referred to as "herd immunity" without enforcing lockdown measures. Indeed the State Epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, and the Director-General, Johan Carlson of the Public Health Agency of Sweden, have suggested that countries implementing strict lockdown measures are the ones "running the experiment" as "no previous pandemic has seen countries shut down to [this] extent." 3,4

those countries implementing strict lockdown measures are "running the experiment" as "no previous pandemic has seen countries shut down to [this] extent."

It is indeed the case that the type of lockdown currently being enforced in the UK has never been seen before, whether in response to a pandemic or any other declared emergency.

Ironically, various newspapers suggest that it is Sweden conducting an experiment by not enforcing these never-seen-before lockdown measures, when in fact it is the countries like the UK that are the experimenters.5,6 Sweden is actually following a previously adopted approach of considered, common sense measures without legally enforced restrictions, which by definition is not an experiment. 

Analysing the Results of the Experiment

As explained, the UK Government lockdown experiment has a Hypothesis, with a method outlined by the measures and restrictions previously described.

An experiment also requires results to be collated, analysed and then interpreted. The UK Government ticks this box too. A vast amount of scientific data is being collected and analysed on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis and is, in the main, freely available to the public and media for interpretation. Importantly the UK Government, and various authorities and agencies on its behalf, are also using this data to help shape public policy and make decisions in relation to the extent and length of the experiment.

The UK Government is analysing data to determine the social, mental, health and economic impact of the Lockdown on individuals affected by it, and as such their Hypothesis is being tested.

Informed Consent

Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)7, a treaty signed and ratified by the UK that entered into force on 20 August 1976, states as follows:

No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.

ICCPR article 4 paragraph 1 does state that "In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin," however ICCPR article 4 paragraph 2 clarifies "No derogation from articles 6, 7, 8 (paragraphs I and 2), 11, 15, 16 and 18 may be made under this provision." So regardless of whether the Coronavirus pandemic is declared a national or public emergency, the UK Governement has no right to subject the people to experimentation without consent.

The UK Government used the threat of force to implement its lockdown experiment and did not provide the public with full details of its potential health and socio-economic impact on them. The people of the UK were subjected to medical and/or scientific experimentation without their free consent.

The people of the UK were subjected to medical and/or scientific experimentation without their free consent

Impact of Lockdown

A surge in non Covid-19 deaths are being reported throughout the UK, including care home deaths,8 and Accident and Emergency attendance at hospitals is plummeting, with equal potential for a rise in illness and/or death.8

In addition to the immediate health impacts resulting from the lockdown experiment, there is also the economic consequences, which will of course also have a huge knock-on effect to our health as a nation. This may even result in more deaths than the coronavirus itself.9

As of the date of writing, 6 weeks after the UK Government commenced the lockdown experiment, the UK PM has not announced any information around the impact of the experiment, how it might end and most importantly when it will conclude.

Letter Before Action

The experimentation upon millions of people without consent is abhorrent and rightfully unlawful. It is the people of the UK and more importantly judges presiding over relevant courts that need to determine if indeed the UK Government lockdown does consitute an experiment on the UK people without consent, and therefore a serious breach of the ICCPR and perhaps other enshrined treaties and legislation. Perhaps the UK Government should consider this writing as the Letter Before Action to end the UK lockdown and related legislation.

Ending the Lockdown

There will undoubtedly be worry regarding ending the lockdown experiment in the UK. This fear is mainly induced by the very action of implementing the UK lockdown in the first place without making publicly available a plan for ending it.

It is therefore not suggested that things return to the pre-lockdown experiment normal overnight. Instead the experiment should end with measures, without the force of law, being implemented, as they are in Sweden, with trust given back to the UK people to act in their own best interests.

If the UK Government intends to implement an experiment on the people in the future, it is suggested they gain consent from them beforehand, and following a process of fully informing them of the intended measures and likely outcomes.


Sources and Reference:



Nicholas Wells

Date Published

05th May 2020

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