“One of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced”

·2-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

Despite all our advantages — some of the best scientific and medical expertise in the world, an open and democratic system that allowed for plentiful challenge, the opportunity to use the learning and experience being generated in other countries, notably in East Asia.

Despite it all, the Government’s early response to Covid ranks as “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced.”

That is the considered view of the joint Health and Social Care, and Science and Technology Committees, a cross-party group of MPs.

What happened to the nation that came second out of 195 countries in the 2019 Global Health Security Index? Well, it was hugely undermined by the fact that it was working to a plan created for an influenza pandemic, not a coronavirus.

The result? “Whilst our pandemic planning had been globally acclaimed, it performed less well than other countries when we needed it most.” Put another way, the UK has suffered 138,000 Covid deaths.

And this pandemic is not done with us yet. Britain is still performing substantially worse than similar EU countries when it comes to new Covid cases.

This wide-ranging report - it is 147 pages long - makes too many criticisms to list but just a few more:

  • The inability to follow global best practice which delayed the first lockdown

  • The failure to counter the risk to social care at the pandemic's start

  • The degree of "groupthink" at the top of government

  • The decision to stop community testing early in the pandemic

  • The failure of test and trace compounded by weak isolation compliance

  • The inability to learn the lessons of the SARS and MERS outbreaks

That is only a selection. If you want to know more, do read the executive summary which is reasonably brief and packed with sensible critiques, although the Rawlsian reference to a “veil of ignorance” is a bit odd. I think they just meant ignorance.

Elsewhere in the paper, in the comment pages, Sir Martin Sorrell writes that he’s not surprised by the breakdown in relations between Boris Johnson and business, suggesting the Prime Minister will call an election early and, if re-elected, go for higher taxes.

Meanwhile, Emma Loffhagen explains the Nicky Minaj-Jesy Nelson blackfishing row.

And finally, forget Salt Bae: From Gordon Ramsay’s burger to £12k rum, check out five wallet-busting dishes and drinks in London. Because why pay less than you have to?

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