This is an HTML version of an attachment to the Freedom of Information request 'Evidence that SARS-COV -2 that leads to Covid 19 has been isolated and identified'.


 
 
 
Public Accountability Unit 
  T  020 8327 6920 
Wellington House 
 
133-155 Waterloo Road 
 
London SE1 8UG 
www.gov.uk/phe  
 
By email 
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx 
 
Our ref: 14/04/21/tr/114 
13 May 2021 
Dear Jarrod Kirkman, 
 
Re: Scientific evidence proving that SARS-COV-2 has been isolated and 
causes Covid-19 disease 
 
Thank you for your request received on 14 April 2021 addressed to Public Health 
England (PHE). In accordance with Section 1(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information 
Act 2000 (the Act), I can confirm that PHE does hold some of the information you 
have specified. I have answered your questions in the order raised: 
 
This is a request for information pursuant s.1 Freedom of Information Act 
2000. 
 

1)   Evidence to prove SARS-COV-2 virus. 
 
Produce any recorded information to evince that the Public Health England 
have acquired scientific evidence proving that the so called SARS-COV-2 virus 
has been isolated and purified in reference laboratories run by Public Health 
England under Professor Zambon (Imperial College London and Sage 
member). 
 

2)  Evidence to prove Covid-19 disease. 
 
Produce any recorded information to evince that the Public Health England 
have acquired scientific evidence proving that the so called COVID-19 disease 
has been isolated and purified in reference laboratories run by Public Health 
England under Professor Zambon (Imperial College London and Sage 
member). 
 
To answer questions 1 and 2, Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 
(SARS‑CoV‑2) is the virus that causes COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019). 
 
PHE’s microbiology teams use the term “isolation” to mean culture in the laboratory. 
It is used sometimes interchangeably to mean isolation from a patient or clinical 
material – but usually implies that the organism has been grown in culture. An 
organism is identified by looking for its unique genetic material in a clinical sample 
and further identification is refined and confirmed by whole genome sequencing. 
 
 
 

The Virus Reference Laboratory at PHE, Colindale, London has grown the virus, 
SARS-CoV-2. The virus culture method has been published in the following peer-
reviewed paper: https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-
7917.ES.2020.25.32.2001483 
 
 
PHE’s culture work on other SARS-CoV-2 variants is in progress and has not 
published in any peer-reviewed papers at present. 
 
Furthermore, under Section 16 of the Act, public authorities have a duty to provide 
advice and assistance. Accordingly, please find the following links below regarding 
evidence of COVID-19: 
 
SARS-CoV-2 has been cultured and then subjected to electron microscopy. 
Evidence of the Electron Micrograph is available at the following link:  
https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2020/01/23/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-what-
you-need-to-know/ 
 
 
General information pertaining to SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as 
COVID-19: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-
background-information/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-epidemiology-virology-and-
clinical-features 
 
 
‘Finding the evidence: Coronavirus’: https://phelibrary.koha-
ptfs.co.uk/coronavirusinformation 
 
 
The collection of ‘Scientific evidence supporting the government response to 
coronavirus (COVID-19): https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/scientific-
evidence-supporting-the-government-response-to-coronavirus-covid-19 
 
 
3)  Evidence to prove causality between the alleged new novel SARS-COV-2 
coronavirus and the purported COVID-19 disease. 
 
Produce any recorded information to evince that the  Public Health 
England have acquired scientific evidence proving that SARS- COV-2 is 
the cause of the COVID-19 disease so as to fulfil all of the requirements 
of Rivers Postulates (1973). 

 
PHE can confirm that it does hold some of this information. 
Evidence for causation between a virus and a disease can be derived form: (i) a 
specific virus must be found associated with a disease with a degree of regularity; 
and (ii) the virus must be shown to occur in the sick individual not as an incidental or 
accidental finding but as the cause of the disease under investigation. The 
pathogenic virus does not need to be present in every case of the disease, the 
possibility of a viral carrier state and asymptomatic infection has to be recognised.   
PHE has published information showing the isolating and culture COVID-19 virus 
and the use of RT-PCR  and the description of tests and methods performed in PHE 
in London between January and April 2020 which identify the SARS-CoV-2 virus 
(https://www.eurosurveillance.org/content/10.2807/1560-
7917.ES.2020.25.32.2001483).
 This paper shows a strong relationship between the 


Ct value (threshold value for virus detection by PCR) and the ability to demonstrate 
live virus multiplying in tissue culture in the laboratory (i.e. virus isolation). Virus 
isolation is only done in highly specialist laboratories and it is not possible in each 
and every diagnostic laboratory. 
 
4)  Evidence to prove transmission capability of SARS-COV-2 novel 
coronavirus. 
 
Produce any recorded information to evince that Public Health England 
have acquired scientific evidence of clinical study to prove that the 
purported SARS-COV-2 new novel coronavirus is capable of 
transmission between like species. 

 
PHE can confirm that it does hold information on research conducted by PHE on the 
transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, that causes the disease known as COVID-
19. However, this information is exempt from disclosure under section 21 of the FOI 
Act because it is reasonably accessible by other means, and the terms of the 
exemption mean that we do not have to consider whether or not it would be in the 
public interest for you to have the information. You may be interested in the 
collection on ‘Scientific evidence supporting the government response to coronavirus 
(COVID-19)’. This includes evidence and research considered by the Scientific 
Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) in responding to COVID-19, including 
research and analysis conducted by PHE. You can access this information at:  
 https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/scientific-evidence-supporting-the-
government-response-to-coronavirus-covid-19 
 
 
You may find the following papers prepared by PHE and presented to SAGE of 
interest: 
 
• 
Factors contributing to risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in various settings 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phe-factors-contributing-to-risk-of-sars-
cov2-transmission-in-various-settings-26-november-2020 
  
 
• 
Susceptibility and transmission risk in children: 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phe-sars-cov2-susceptibility-and-
transmission-risk-in-children-an-overview-of-current-evidence-from-phe-surveillance-
work-19-august-2020 
 
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/phe-prospective-active-national-
surveillance-of-preschools-and-primary-schools-for-sars-cov-2-infection-and-
transmission-21-august-2020 
 
 
Additionally, SAGE, the Environmental and Modelling Group (EMG) and the New 
and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG) have 
published a number of papers on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. These include 
but are not limited to: 
•  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nervtagemg-role-of-aerosol-
transmission-in-covid-19-22-july-2020  
•  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/pheemg-aerosol-and-droplet-
generation-from-singing-wind-instruments-and-performance-activities-13-
august-2020 
 


•  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/nervtagemg-hand-hygiene-to-
limit-sars-cov-2-transmission-2-july-2020  
•  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/emg-measurement-of-
effectiveness-of-risk-mitigation-measures-in-reducing-transmission-16-july-
2020 
 
•  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/
attachment_data/file/952799/s1020-Reducing-within-between-household-
transmission.pdf 
  
 
Research on transmission is not limited to that conducted by PHE. Other 
organisations and academic institutions have also undertaken research in relation to 
the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. 
 
5)  Evidence to prove spread. 
 
Produce any recorded information to evince that the  Public Health 
England have acquired scientific evidence of clinical study to prove that 
the SARS-COV-2 virus is capable of being spread, so as to decree 
whether alive in the air, alive on surfaces, alive in droplets, and/or 
something other. 

 
PHE cannot answer whether a virus is “alive”. This is a debatable topic and depends 
on one’s definition of life. Under section 16 of the FOI Act, public authorities have a 
duty to provide advice and assistance. Accordingly, I have provided a link below to 
an article discussing the concept of whether viruses can be considered “alive”, 
https://microbiologysociety.org/publication/past-issues/what-is-life/article/are-viruses-
alive-what-is-life.html.
  
 
PHE can confirm that it has detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA on surfaces and in the air in 
COVID-19 patients’ rooms as have many researchers worldwide. However viable 
virus was not detected 
(https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.09.24.20191411v1 
doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.09.24.20191411). Other studies have detected 
viable virus in air, for example the paper "Viable SARS-CoV-2 in the air of a hospital 
room with COVID-19 patients". The paper can be found here: 
https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.08.03.20167395v1.full.pdf 
 
If you have any queries regarding the information that has been supplied to you, 
please refer your query to me in writing in the first instance. If you remain dissatisfied 
and would like to request an internal review, then please contact us at the address 
above or by emailing xxx@xxx.xxx.xx.  
 
Please note that you have the right to an independent review by the Information 
Commissioner’s Office if a complaint cannot be resolved through the PHE 
complaints procedure. The Information Commissioner’s Office can be contacted by 
calling the ICO’s helpline on 0303 123 1113, visiting the ICO’s website at 
www.ico.org.uk or writing to the ICO at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, 
Cheshire, SK9 5AF. 


 
Yours sincerely  
FOI Team