COVID-19: Minister refuses to apologise for government's pandemic handling as report says errors 'cost thousands of lives'
By SEAMLESS DAILY
12 October 2021
He said the decision on when to introduce the first national lockdown was "based on the scientific advice at the time" and rejected the suggestion that ministers did not scrutinise the advice from scientific advisers thoroughly enough.
Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic – and the advice that led to them – "rank as one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced", the report concludes, stressing : “ This happened despite the UK counting on some of the best expertise available anywhere in the world, and despite having an open, democratic system that allowed plentiful challenge. ” The report from the Commons science and technology committee and the health and social care committee draws on evidence from more than 50 witnesses, including the former health secretary Matt Hancock, the government's chief scientific and medical advisers, and leading figures from the vaccine taskforce and NHS Test and Trace.
Other key findings of the report include : • The decision to abandon testing for COVID in the community early on was a mistake that "cost many lives" • Failing to prioritise social care and discharging people from hospitals into care homes "led to many thousands of deaths" • Robust border controls were needed sooner • There were "serious deficiencies" in communication within government and between central and local government.
Likewise, a failure to believe that the British public would accept lockdown helped delay one from being implemented, despite evidence that the NHS was going to be overwhelmed with cases.
MPs also praised the ability of the NHS to absorb the pressures COVID placed on it and the rapid deployment of Nightingale hospitals.
But a campaign group for bereaved relatives of those who died during the pandemic has dismissed the report as "laughable" and labelled it an "an attempt to ignore and gaslight bereaved families, who will see it as a slap in the face".
Hannah Brady, of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, said the report found the deaths of 150,000 people were "redeemed" by the success of the vaccine rollout.
a government spokesperson said in response to the report : "we have never shied away from taking quick and decisive action to save lives and protect our nhs, including introducing restrictions and lockdowns.
"As the prime minister has said, we are committed to learning lessons from the pandemic and have committed to holding a full public inquiry in spring."
Britain's early handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, with ministers and scientists taking a "fatalistic" approach that exacerbated the death toll, a landmark inquiry has found.
But the report by the cross-party group said there had been successes too- in particular the vaccination programme.
Tory MPs Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark, who chair the committees, said the nature of the pandemic meant it was "impossible to get everything right".
"The UK has combined some big achievements with some big mistakes.
But Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said the findings were "damning" and showed what "monumental errors" had been made.
But the idea was not challenged enough by ministers in any part of the UK, indicating a "degree of group-think".
The advice from scientists changed on 16 March 2020, but it was only a week later that a lockdown was announced.
"This slow and gradualist approach was not inadvertent, nor did it reflect bureaucratic delay or disagreement between ministers and their advisers," the report says.
"It was a deliberate policy- proposed by official scientific advisers and adopted by the governments of all of the nations of the UK.
the mps said : "it is now clear that this was the wrong policy, 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 and exponentially, every week counted."
Those failings included a decision last autumn to ignore scientific advice for a two-week circuit-breaker which could have saved thousands of lives.
Greg Clark, the chair of the science and technology committee, said he dismissed the allegation that government policy sought to reach “ herd immunity ” through infection but the outcome came to be seen as the only viable option.
despite being one of the first countries to develop a test for covid in january 2020, the uk "squandered" its lead and “ converted it into one of permanent crisis ”.
It said the system was too centralised, only later making use of the expertise in local public health teams run by councils.
The development of treatments, such as dexamethasone, for Covid through the UK Recovery Trial was another area where the UK's response was genuinely world-leading, the report said.
the report highlighted "unacceptably high" death rates in ethnic minority groups and for people with learning disabilities.
"The report … is laughable and more interested in political arguments about whether you can bring laptops to Cobra meetings than it is in the experiences of those who tragically lost parents, partners or children to Covid-19.
"Groupthink", evidence of British exceptionalism and a deliberately “ slow and gradualist ” approach meant the UK fared “ significantly worse ” than other countries, according to the 151-page “ Coronavirus : lessons learned to date ” report led by two former Conservative ministers.
Some of the most serious early failings, the report suggests, resulted from apparent groupthink among scientists and ministers which led to "fatalism".
MPs also tore into the "slow, uncertain and often chaotic" £38billion Test and Trace system, which had failed to prevent future lockdowns.
Boris Johnson is under pressure to bring forward the public inquiry into how the pandemic was handled after a report by MPs condemned errors that cost thousands of lives.
The report said : "Ministers were correct to identify that a vaccine would be the long-term route out of the pandemic and presciently supported their research and development."
It meant there was a month's lockdown, apart from schools, in November as the Alpha variant spread through the UK.
They said : "It is vital to learn from both to ensure we perform as best as we possibly can during the remainder of the pandemic and in the future."
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