UK pandemic failures ‘worst ever’ say MPs

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New inquiry makes ‘damning’ claims over early UK pandemic failures as Covid-19 took hold

 

Britain ‘squandered’ the lead given to it with the early development of their testing, and fared ‘significantly worse’ than other countries due to their ‘ fatalistic’ approach, a landmark inquiry has found. Two former Conservative ministers led the 151-page document “Coronavirus: lessons learned to date”. It focuses on the pandemic response in England, although recognises that these lead to wider UK pandemic failures.
 
The first cases of Covid-19 detected in the UK were in January of 2020. It was the 23rd of March before any sort of lockdown was ordered in England. The “slow and gradualistic approach” was lambasted in the report as the wrong policy to take, and that it led to “a higher initial death toll than would have resulted from a more emphatic early policy. In a pandemic spreading rapidly, every week counted”.
 
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) had run pandemic planning before but based mainly on the flu. This led to the Government adopting a managed spread approach, or herd immunity by infection, as called by the report. This herd immunity plan postponed the initial lockdown, advice that ranked as “one of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced”. A full public inquiry is due next year.
 
The report also had some praise for the UK. It lauded the vaccination rollout and the support given to the development of a different number of vaccines. It also called the programme one of the most successful in history and said it will save millions of lives.
 
This wasn’t enough to cover the mistakes for some. The shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called the report ‘damning’ and a spokesperson for the bereaved families said it was “laughable”. Prof Trish Greenhalgh, of the University of Oxford, claimed the report had hints of a “less than healthy relationship” between the scientific advisors and the Government.
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Written by

Claire Gordon

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