Wver you sit on the political spectrum, it is very hard to look at the UK’s handling of coronavirus and think “that is a job well done”.
The death rate alone is appalling. T were nearly 2,000 (1,955) deaths for every million people in the UK.
This is higher than the USA (1,855), Spain (1,751), France (1,639) and Sweden (1,425). It dwarfs Germany (1,105), Netherlands (1,015) and Canada (709). When you compare it with other countries with no land borders like Australia with 38 and New Zealand with just five it demonstrates that it didn’t have to be this way. If we want to focus on European equivalents, Ireland had just over half as many deaths with 1,023.
But as we who have lived through last 18 months all know, the cost of the UK’s approach to Covid and lockdowns wasn’t just in the catastrophically high death toll. It was in the loss of education children suffered, it was the stolen life moments such as fathers unable to be at the births of their children or people unable to saying goodbye in person to a terminally ill relative. It was the viable businesses that folded, the women forced into extended lockdowns with their abusers with little support, the people still now living in pain awaiting vital operations.
On top of that, t is the collective mental health impact of locking down over 60 million people time and again. Not to mention the necessity of obliterating civil liberties for extended periods because of political decisions.
Read more:Three things everyone thinks about Wales’ response to the pandemic that are completely wrong
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised a public inquiry into the handling of Covid will take place in April 2022. This means that it will likely not complete until the next general election. This means years of lessons failing to be learnt and bereaved families with no answers.
We looked in detail at all of the concerns about the way Wales handled the pandemic, and have now put together a list of many the mistakes that the UK Government has made during the crisis below. It is important to note that mistakes made by Boris Johnson’s government which mainly just effected England will not be covered in this list. This is not to play down the failings in areas like care homes and education but as education and health are devolved issues, it is right that we look at Welsh Government actions in these areas which you can see in previous articles similar to this.
Setting up test centres in Wales without telling the Welsh Government
In late March 2020, the UK Government and Deloitte set up a testing centre in the car park of the Cardiff City stadium.
Now setting up a test centre hardly seems like a mistake right? Well the problem came from the fact that they set it up without informing Public Health Wales (PHW) or the Welsh Government (who were devising their own mass testing strategy) that they were doing it.
Health is a devolved issue and the UK Government has no jurisdiction to implement policy related to health within the borders of Wales so it is a bit like Mark Drakeford opening a surprise Covid test centre in Torquay.
But the reason this was a mistake is not because they strayed outside their policy area, the reason is that it caused chaos for wider Covid testing in Wales and tied Wales into a privately run Lighthouse Labs testing network which would cause serious issues in the autumn.
As PHW had had no input into the system it was now expected to use t were a wide range of issues. Wales’ testing system used a different kind of test. Welsh tests were a dry swab that only needed to go to the back of the throat was the UK Government ones had to go in the nose as well. Wales has used dry swabs for about fifteen years as it is a technique developed for transporting samples of flu from areas of rural Wales w it took more time to get samples back to labs. This meant that some tests in Wales went to different labs depending on who was running it and tfore it became very complicated to track missing tests as the average person didn’t know who was running their particular test centre.
The system that the UK Government imposed on Wales was also now near as robust, using spreadsheets and manual input for people’s details was Wales had an integrated clinical system which meant that if you are registered with a Welsh GP it would feed into the Welsh infrastructure. It was on a secure NHS network was the UK one was with Deloitte though these systems did eventually improve.
So because of this total lack of communication at the start of the pandemic, Wales has been stuck with this duel system throughout the crisis w some cases go to Welsh labs and others to UK labs.
Spending a fortune on the Lighthouse Labs system that failed when we needed them most
As the virus roared back into life in the early autumn of 2020, huge numbers of tests were needed to keep on top of this. Not only did it help inform policy makers w the cases were and how best to respond, it also enabled TTP to get in touch with close contacts in order to get them to self isolate – tby slowing the growth of the virus.
However, just as cases were accelerating and SAGE was calling for another lockdown, the Lighthouse Labs that the UK Government had essentially imposed on Wales (at great cost to the taxpayer) were in disarray.
Now was this more evident than in Rhondda Cynon Taf on September 12. The county had some of the fastest-growing Covid rates in the UK and First Minister Mark Drakeford had warned that a local lockdown could be imminent.
On the weekend of September 12/13, when everyone in RCT was being told to get tested if they had symptoms, the Lighthouse Labs allocated just 60 tests for the whole local authority.
“The centre has 400 to 500 slots a day,” RCT Council leader Andrew Morgan told WalesOnline. “Serco [the private company paid by the UK Government to run the site] said they would be leaving the site early and are only allowed to do 60 tests. It is a complete farce, I think the system is close to collapse.”
This led to the Welsh Government appealing directly to the UK Government for more tests which resulted in only another 60 being allocated.
This was just one example, across Wales people were unable to get tests when they needed them. Some people were told to travel from Cardiff to Inverness for tests. Others were sent to Bolton (the area of the UK with the highest infection rate at the time). This was all on the UK Government’s watch. It is their failing. Of course you can also argue that the Welsh Government should have increased their capacity to account for this shortfall but Mark Drakeford was given assurances by the UK Government that the system could cope. It clearly didn’t and people died in Wales because of these failings.
Sidelining the Welsh Government in negotiations over testing from Roche
In the early weeks of the pandemic, the biggest challenge facing policy makers was a lack of testing capacity. Despite demands from the WHO to “test, test, test”, the UK was flying blind. The lack of testing was a key part of the decision to stop contact tracing Covid cases (as well as a totally under resourced contact tracing capacity) with both the Welsh and UK Government’s scrambling to secure more tests.
At the start of April Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething had set the target of 9,000 tests a day by the end of April, but they missed this wildly with Wales only conducting 1,090 tests on the last day of April.
The key reason for this failing is because the UK Government torpedoed a deal that the Welsh Government claimed it had with the pharmaceutical company Roche for 5,000 tests a day. Leaving aside the naivety of the Welsh Government to not secure a written agreement ( you can read more on this ), t is no doubt that these tests going to the UK Government and only a trickle coming back to Wales meant that, at the height of a pandemic, Wales had no real ability to properly test its population.
You can see the extent to which the Welsh Government felt they had been hamstrung from emails secured via a Freedom of Information Request from Public Health Wales chief executive Tracey Cooper.
Within it she lists the PHW Wales version of events after the deal collapses. These include:
- Negotiations started with Roche from March 2.
- PHW “found it hard to pin Roche down to a written agreement”.
- PHW “understands” that the UK Government “instructed” the company to “reserve all additional Covid tests” to be used in England (although those tests were ultimately allocated for UK-wide not English use).
- PHW believed they had agreed that a team from Roche would configure some machinery to make it able to handle Covid tests as well as supplying the tests themselves.
- However in an email summarising what happened Tracey Cooper said: “It is clear that they [Roche] have no plan to come to Wales….and that they are being instructed by DHSC [Department for Health and Social Care] and following those instructions”.
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Pretending Wales and devolution simply didn’t exist
For the first seven weeks of the original lockdown the separate nations of the UK followed almost exactly the same rules. Primarily driven by the UK Government it is fair to say that Wales and England were walking broadly in lockstep (baring the occasional commandeering of tests).
However, as we moved into May 2020 it was clear that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was going to relax restrictions further than either Mark Drakeford and Nicola Sturgeon were comfortable. This is w each nation start to go its own way. Now this is not a bad thing in and of itself. It is the nature of devolution that the democratically-elected governments in each of the component parts of the UK can have different polices.
The problems came because of the utterly dreadful communication given by the Prime Minister upon announcing new rules that only applied to England.
Johnson said: “From this Wednesday we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household. Anyone who can’t work from home…should be actively encouraged to go to work.”
At no point in this entire speech did he once mention that none of these rules applied to Wales or Scotland or Northern Ireland. T were still travel restrictions on how far you could journey from your home in Wales prompting Welsh police chiefs to implore people in England to not travel to Welsh beaches.
It is important to remember how much has changed in the last 18 months. The pandemic has awoken Wales’ devolved consciousness. The vast majority of people in Wales know that it is the First Minister who will announce the rules that apply to them. However back in May 2020 it was likely most people wouldn’t recognised him if he’d walked past them in the street. They would however have recognised Boris Johnson.
For the PM of the UK to be so misleading during a pandemic and treat devolved government in Wales as an afterthought was a serious error that made it harder to control the virus in Wales. This was not the last time this would happen during the crisis.
The lack of communication with other parts of the UK
Between May 28 and July 31, Mark Drakeford and Boris Johnson had no contact via phone, video call or face to face.
This it an insane state of affairs at any time, but the idea that during a pandemic the leaders of the two most interconnected countries on Earth (one of which was actually the PM for both nations) didn’t speak.
Now t is an argument that this is a two-way street. Why should Johnson bear the sole blame for this? Well it was clearly evident that Drakeford did want to have a more communicative relationship. He publicly called for the PM to communicate more even expressing his frustration that Johnson was simply paying lip service to the union after taking up the post Minister for the Union upon taking office.
On July 6, he said: “If you are Minister for the Union, then speaking to the component parts of the union would seem to me a sensible way of discharging those responsibilities. If we had had more of those opportunities, t are many issues which we have come across. We could have shared our experience of reopening schools for example. We could have heard directly from the prime minister about the experience over this weekend reopening hospitality. I wanted more conversations not because I want to have arguments with anybody. I just want us to share, learn and do better and I think we would have done better if we had had more opportunities.”
It is worth noting that were substantial communications at lower levels between the separate administrations, especially when it came to scientific data sharing. However, this wouldn’t be the last time the PM ignored attempted correspondence from Mark Drakeford, which leads us on to…
Not stopping travel from high prevalence areas
On September 28, 2020, Mark Drakeford sent a letter to Boris Johnson. In it he appealed to the prime minister to stop people from travelling to Wales from areas of England with very high Covid rates. At this point people in Wales who were in local lockdown areas were not allowed to travel out of the area except for certain reasons. This was not the case in parts of England with high cases.
In reality this meant that someone in Liverpool, with 600 cases per 100,000 population at the time, could travel to Anglesey, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion for a weekend was someone in Newport, which had 50 cases per 100,000, could not.
More than two weeks later the PM had not only refused to take any action to stop this kind of travel, he also hadn’t responded to any of the First Minister’s correspondence. This has two effects.
Firstly and most seriously it enabled the virus to spread further in Wales w it killed more people than necessary. This isn’t speculation, this was established by analysis of waste water in Welsh sewers which found that high proportion of cases could be linked to imports.
Secondly, through failing to even respond to requests from Wales’ leader, Johnson yet again showed total disregard for the union he claims to champion.
Finally on October 14 the First Minister announced that people travelling from Covid hotspots in England had to isolate for 14 days.
Eat Out To Help Out
On July 8 last year, UK Government Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new discount scheme offering everyone the chance to eat in cafes, bars and restaurants for half price. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme was billed as a much-needed shot in the arm of the UK economy which had lost millions since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020.
However, the evidence suggests it was real driver of the virus in the late summer/early autumn period.
Last October, just over a month after the scheme wrapped up, research from Dr Thiemo Fetzer, a researcher at the CAGE Research Centre at the University of Warwick, suggested it had caused a rise in Covid-19 infections of between 8% and 17%.
Other findings included:
- Participating restaurants saw an increase in visits of between 10 and 200% compared to 2019.
- Areas with a higher rate of uptake (both from restaurants and consumers) experienced a sharp increase in the emergence of new Covid-19 infection clusters a week after the scheme began.
- Areas with high uptake saw a decline in new infections a week after the scheme ended.
- As the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme ended, visits to restaurants started to decline – indicating that its positive economic impact was short-lived.
Though support for the economy should be applauded, this state sponsored spreading of the virus likely accelerated the move to the bleak winter lockdown.
Failing to support Wales’ firebreak with furlough until England followed suit
In October of 2020 the Welsh Government were getting ready to go into the firebreak lockdown on the advice of SAGE (who had given the same advice to the UK Government).
The Welsh Government had asked the chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the furlough scheme from October 31 when it was due to end until November 9 when Wales would come out of its firebreak. This request was rejected.
However as soon as the UK Government announced that t would be a circuit breaker lockdown in England, the UK Government announced that the scheme would be extended after all.
First Minister Mark Drakeford responded to the announcement saying: “Furlough is crucial for businesses. But Rishi Sunak said he wouldn’t extend it in Wales when we asked.
“He also said no when we asked him to bring forward the Job Support Scheme to help businesses – we even said we’d pay the difference. It’s now clear he could have said yes.”
Despite later attempts from the Treasury to portray it as though this wasn’t the case, by not extending lockdown for Wales the UK Government made it harder for the Welsh Government to follow the advice of experts and SAGE by going into lockdown because they had to factor in the potentially devastating impact it could have on the economy if Wales locked down without the furlough scheme protecting jobs.
Allocating £37 billion on a Test and Trace service w t is no clear evidence its “unimaginable” costs have been justified
It should be noted that the obscenely expensive and often poorly performing Test and Trace service only operated in England. Wales’ equivalent Test, Trace, Protect (TTP scheme) had its own problems ( which you can read more about ) but consistently outperformed its English counterpart for a fraction of the price. This should come with the disclaimer that the actual costs to the taxpayer was considerably higher in Wales than listed because Wales does not pay directly for its share of testing sites or laboratory facilities which are commissioned by the UK Government.
But despite not being directly related to Wales, the incredible sums of money thrown at the service, headed by Dido Harding and set up in May 2020 really do matter. This is taxpayers’ money. For context, the UK threw £37bn at Test and Trace which is only slightly less than the entire defence budget in 2019/20 (£39.8bn).
In March a damning report from the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said that NHS Test and Trace must “wean itself off its persistent reliance on consultants and temporary staff”. Given that in early February it was still employing about 2,500 consultants at an average daily rate of £1,000 with some paid £6,624 a day, it is easy to understand this assessment.
Meg Hillier, the committee chair, said: “Despite the unimaginable resources thrown at this project, NHS Test and Trace cannot point to a measurable difference to the progress of the pandemic, and the promise on which this huge expense was justified—avoiding another lockdown—has been broken, twice.”
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Delaying a Covid inquiry
Within a week of the UK going into the first lockdown in late March 2020, it was clear that a public inquiry would be needed. The deaths were already spiralling, civil liberties were being trampled to make up for a lack of planning and medics had to buy their own visors from B&Q due to a lack of stockpiles. We had no idea then just how awful the next 18 months would be but it was already clear that lessons needed to be learned and bereaved families needed answers.
Though the Prime Minister has said t will be a public inquiry in May 2021 he said it would not start for nearly 12 months until spring 2022. This means that by the time many of the key people are interviewed many years will have gone past since the actual events they are giving evidence on. This is all time w memories can fade.
Not only this but, given that another pandemic at some point in the future is likely, it is a delay to the lessons we could be learning and a longer time for families of those who died to get answers. Given the length of time that these inquires often take and the sheer volume of decisions to be assessed, it seems likely that the delay will push any findings beyond the next general election, which clearly could be highly beneficial for the PM.
Letting the Delta variant into the UK
Most of the cases of Covid we have seen since May in the UK have been the Delta variant of the virus that first emerged in India and t are very real reasons to point the finger at Boris Johnson for allowing this virus to enter the UK in the first place. Let’s look at the timeline.
An investigation by The Times found that UK Government ministers were given the news of the variant’s arrival on April 1 but no official statement was made until April 15. India was not placed on the red list banning travellers from the country for another eight days. This is a stark contrast to last December when a travel ban was imposed on South Africa within two days after it was discovered that the strain from that country had entered Britain.
During this delay at least 20,000 passengers who could have had the virus were allowed to enter Britain in the first three weeks of April.
What makes this decision not to ban travel even more bizarre is how the UK Government treated Bangladesh and Pakistan during that time.
In early April, Bangladesh had the South Africa but not the Brazil variant was Pakistan had neither but were both added to the red list on 9 April. By contrast India had both these strains as well as a new variant, but was not added for another fortnight.
When Pakistan was put on the red list it had an infection rate of 21 cases per million people with Bangladesh being twice that. Understandably both were added to the red list. Bizarrely India was not despite having four-times as many cases based on population as Pakistan.
So why did Johnson delay so much? According to The Times investigation, senior political sources suggested two reasons for the delay in adding India to the red list. It is alleged that Boris Johnson wanted to keep relations with India cordial before post-Brexit trade talks and that t was also concern that it might halt vaccine supplies from its factories to the UK if moved onto a different list.
The sheer amount of public money given to people with connections to the Conservative Party
The scandal of public money ending up in the hands of people who have prominent friends in the Tory Party has been an ongoing theme of the crisis. T have also be concerns that many contracts were awarded without a proper tendering process and many of the items supplied were not up to standard.
are just a few examples:
- Healthcare firm Randox, which employs Conservative MP Owen Paterson as a paid consultant, won a £133m contract unopposed to produce Covid-19 testing kits.
- Conservative councillor Steve Dechan and the director of P14 Medical received PPE contracts to supply face shields worth £120m.
- Fifty million face masks bought by the UK government in April ended up not being used in the NHS because of safety concerns. The were supplied to NHS England by Ayanda Capital as part of a £252m contract. The person who originally approached the government about the deal was a government trade adviser who also advises the board of Ayanda.
The campaign group Transparency International UK identified 73 “questionable contracts” worth more than £3.7 billion, equivalent to 20 percent of Covid-19 contracts between February and November 2020, that raise one or more red flags for possible corruption.
Of particular concern for the group was the “VIP” or “high priority” lane used to fast track offers of PPE from companies referred by MPs, peers and senior officials.
Their key findings were:
- A total of 24 PPE contracts worth £1.6 billion were awarded to those with known political connections to Conservative Party.
- Three contracts worth £536 million went to politically connected companies for testing related services.
- Between February and November 2020, 98.9%of Covid-19 related contracts by value (£17.8 billion) were awarded without any form of competition, many without adequate justification.
- Fourteen companies incorporated in 2020 received contracts worth more than £620 million, of which 13 contracts totalling £255 million went to 10 firms that were less than 60 days old.
The unequal society and long-term under funding of services
Coronavirus didn’t take a healthy society and make it sick. UK society in March 2020 had a lot of underlying health conditions which Covid-19 exploited to full effect. A good analogy is that UK society was like a road with lots of small potholes in it. They were t long before Covid but the virus was like water that gets into a pothole overnight, freezes and cracks it open.
These cracks were well known but successive governments have utterly failed to fix them while the sun was shining meaning that when the virus arrived, t were dozens of risks factors ready and waiting for it to exploit.
These are just some of them:
- Poor quality housing
- Racial inequality
- High levels of pollution and associated respiratory conditions
- Shortages of key workers such as doctors, nurses and carers
- Inadequate sick pay
- Gender inequality
- Under-funded domestic violence services
- Packed public transport
- Over-crowded prisons
These issues are deep rooted and successive governments have failed to address them. These problems have been allowed to grow and develop at a time successive UK governments have not adopted progressive regional funding policies that would have redistributed wealth to poorer areas. And t is a clear link between this failure to properly invest in lower-income areas and Covid deaths. This brings us on to…
The devastating impact on inmates in UK prisons
Prisons are not devolved and come under the UK Government through the Ministry of Justice.
Last month WalesOnline conducted an in-depth investigation into the impact Covid-19 had on like in Welsh prisons which you can read .
Though the virus was, in the main, not the mortality disaster it could have been in an over-crowded and under-funded prison system, saving lives came at a brutal cost.
Most prisoners were kept in their cell for 23 hours a day and only let out to shower and make a phone call. Often because of time constraints they had to choose whether to bathe or speak to family (usually the phone call is less than five minutes). Almost all support services to prevent reoffending and find employment after incarceration were cancelled with some inmates stuck in prison perpetually because the terms of their release stated they had to complete a course to be eligible for release but these courses were not running.
A well-functioning and properly-resourced prison service would not have to resort to such draconian measures to keep Covid out of institutions.
Ultimately, whatever crimes these people committed, they are the responsibility of the state. The cost of not rehabilitating them or them leaving prison with addiction and mental issues stretches beyond the human cost to them but also to society. A revolving door justice system is sure to create more victims and not fewer.
“I shook hands with everybody” – a total disdain for science
On March 3, 2020, Boris Johnson proudly told a press conference that he “was at a hospital the other night w t were actually a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody you will be pleased to know”.
On the very day he said this, across the world the number of people infected with Covid-19 hit 90,000 people in more than 40 countries. Of these, 3,119 people had already died. In China, huge field hospitals had been built, the virus was transmitting in the UK and Italy had been in a partial lockdown for more than a week as its health service was overwhelmed.
The absolute irresponsibility of these actions is obvious. Not only did it possible contribute to the leader of the UK being out of action (and taking up an NHS bed) in the middle of the biggest crisis facing us since the Second World War, it also promoted a blasé approach to basic Covid safety. We should not forget that at this point the UK Government’s entire Covid containment strategy was mainly based around telling people wash their hands while singing happy birthday.
This was far from the last time that the Prime Minister dismissed science. A message which appears to have been sent by the Prime Minister to aides on 15 October, read: “I must say I have been slightly rocked by some of the data on Covid fatalities.
“The median age is 82 – 81 for men 85 for women. That is above life expectancy. So get Covid and live longer.
“Hardly anyone under 60 goes into hospital (4 per cent ) and of those virtually all survive. And I no longer buy all this NHS overwhelmed stuff. Folks I think we may need to recalibrate.
“T are max 3m in this country aged over 80. It shows we don’t go for nation-wide lockdown.”
This message was sent a month after SAGE had advised an immediate lockdown to prevent spiralling cases and less than a month until he had to order a lockdown because the situation was running out of control.
So much has been written and discussed about Dominic Cummings breaking Covid rules to travel to Durham and then Barnard Castle on his wife’s birthday to “test his eyes”, the nuts and bolts do not need repeating .
But it is worth talking about the impact this had on controlling the virus.
Before this whole saga t was a real sense that obeying the lockdown rules mattered. It was not just a law, it was a duty. To break that rule carried the same stigma as stealing or assault. Just a month before when Neil Ferguson had broken the rules Matt Hancock had welcomed his resignation because it was “just not possible” for him to advise the Government (this is not to mention Mr Hancock’s future rule breaking ways).
After the Cummings saga however things changed. Cabinet ministers like Michael Gove were using political capital and air time defending the indefensible with Mr Gove saying that he had previously driven “on occasion” to test his eyesight?!
Was before the Cummings affair t was a real sense that obeying the lockdown rules mattered, now the rules were seen to be on the same level as speeding on a motorway – technically illegal but open to discretion. This was a genie that would never be put back in the bottle.
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During a crisis the size of the pandemic it is vital that those making the decisions that affect (and may cost) lives are able to be scrutinised. This is fundamental in a democracy and is especially important when you are removing people’s civil liberties in the name of protecting lives.
However, time and again throughout the pandemic the UK Government appeared to actively try and limit the scrutiny they faced.
One of the first examples is when Boris Johnson changed the “stay home” message to “stay alert” in early May. Unlike every other announcement w journalists and the public were able to ask questions and challenge the PM, this time he opted to prerecord this huge announcement leaving no opportunities for questions. These were significant events with that televised announcement on May 10 getting a staggering 24.35 million viewers (three times more than the most popular FA Cup final).
This was just after the they stopped putting up comparisons between the UK and counties like Italy and Spain in the press conferences because of the UK had overtaken them in cases and deaths.
This avoidance of scrutiny continued after the Dominic Cummings affair with journalists no longer allowed to ask a follow up question (and were muted if they tried to). In the immediate aftermath Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May was seemingly dropped from the broadcasts after she declined to endorse Boris Johnson’s adviser at the practice session beforehand.
In one press conference, England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said he was happy to answer questions on Cummings saying that: “In my opinion they are for the benefit of all. In my opinion they apply to all.”
This led to a massive scaling back of scientists appearing on the briefing with research by the i newspaper finding that for the first 11 weeks of the Downing Street briefing from mid-March until the end of May, t was a weekly total of between eight and 12 scientific or medical experts alongside ministers. In the first two weeks of June this dropped to four and three respectively.
A total lack of preparation for a disaster they knew would come
In 2016 the Exercise Cygnus study found that the UK was not remotely ready for a large pandemic. Four years later as the pandemic arrived this was proved to be totally true.
T were many lessons from this exercises which were never taken on board or properly acted upon. These included:
- Cygnus recommended a single body be set up known as a “Pandemic Concept of Operations” to avoid silos and different approaches across the country. This body was never set up.
- The report recommended that the UK Government should “examine the impact of school closures” on society and create backup plans. Few if any contingency plans appear to have been put in place.
Cygnus said that care homes would be a pinch point, predicting that hospitals would need to move patients into homes and that the sector could be overwhelmed. It said that to avoid this t should be an audit of care home capacity, “ring-fenced” funds, provision of PPE and active engagement with providers on the vital issue of “surge capacity”. Clearly this didn’t happen.
It needs to be remembered that though the word “unprecedented” was used relentlessly throughout the pandemic t was in fact a great deal of precedent for policy makers if they had been botd to look. SARS, MERS and Ebola had all emerged in the last two decades with some advanced economies and healthcare systems around the world hit hard by them. Instead of learning these lessons the UK entered the pandemic totally unprepared for a crisis that had long been predicted. T is no excuse.
The dithering, delay and mishandling of the first three months of 2020
The mistakes, miscalculations and errors leading up to the first lockdown have been well documented. They were the foundations on which the next 18 months of hell were built.
Going through them forensically could fill several books but it is worthwhile highlighting the key questions that the future Covid inquiry absolutely must address in order to understand why the seeds of the last year and a half were able to take root.
- Why did Boris Johnson miss so many COBRA meetings in the run up to the crisis?
- Was contact tracing abandoned instead of increased?
- Why was the virus allowed to spread unchecked for so long in our communities before locking down?
- Why was a policy of herd immunity followed when it would clearly lead to a higher death toll, the NHS would certainly be overwhelmed and t was no guarantee of long term immunity?
- Why was t no significant stockpiling of PPE earlier on?
- Why were the warnings coming from Italy and Spain ignored?
- Why were flights from countries with cases allowed to continue for so long?
- Why were events like the Cheltenham races allowed to continue given the threat posed by the virus had now become so clear?
When WalesOnline approached the UK Government, a spokeswoman said: “Throughout the pandemic our approach has been guided by data and the advice of scientific and medical experts.
“As new evidence emerged, we acted quickly and decisively to implement life-saving measures and have done whatever it takes to protect the NHS and save lives and livelihoods.
“We have and continue to work closely with the Devolved Administrations on a four nations approach to the pandemic and our recovery, as demonstrated by the success of the vaccine programme, furlough scheme, and support for public services with communication taking place at all levels including the Prime Minister.”
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Source: Wales Online