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Sir Paul Nurse: ‘We have a childish government taking on Covid-19’

A Nobel Prize winner and a government advisor for 15 years, Nurse tells The Big Issue why science and politics must work together and how exposing the vulnerability of humanity is not a bad thing

Few people are better placed to assess how we’re tackling the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic than Sir Paul Nurse – and he’s not impressed.

A government advisor for 15 years, a Nobel Prize winner in 2001 for working out how cells reproduce and a tireless advocate for discussing science in public affairs, Sir Paul tells The Big Issue that the coronavirus response has “stumbled from one crisis to another” in this week’s magazine.

The Director of the Francis Crick Institute tells us why science and politics must work together to keep the public informed and discusses why understanding ourselves is the key to overcoming our biggest challenges.

But it is his stinging appraisal of how populism has infected how we have dealt with the sternest test of our time that will give our leaders cause to question their actions.

Sir Paul says: “In some respects, I have some sympathy to the government, because it’s a terrible thing to deal with, and I have sympathy with the scientists trying to advise them. But I don’t think we’ve handled it very well.

“Where I think we failed as a society is in our political structures to deal with it. The government has not really properly embraced how to deal with science and explain it to the public. They have relied on one-liners. We no longer have trust in the system or what people say because so many things have turned out not to be right. This is completely childish. So when you have a childish government running us, hiding behind one-liners, hoping everybody will forget about it in a week or two, you realise that we are not being led by political leaders who can begin to cope with this problem.”

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Read more from Sir Paul Nurse in this week’s Big Issue magazine, available now from vendors all over the country. If you can’t get to your local vendor, you can subscribe to receive the magazine directly to your door or device. Head to bigissue.com/subscribe for more details or download The Big Issue app from the App Store or Google Play. Individual print copies are also available from The Big Issue Shop.

What is Life? by Paul Nurse is out now (David Fickling, £9.99)

Image: Fiona Hanson/AP Images

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