Covid response “one of UK’s worst public health failures” | Health policy
Britain’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic has been one of the worst public health failures in UK history, with ministers and scientists taking a ‘fatalistic’ approach that has exacerbated the number of dead, a historical investigation has revealed.
‘Group thinking’, evidence of the UK exception and a deliberately ‘slow and gradual’ approach meant the UK was doing ‘considerably worse’ than other countries, according to the 151-page report ‘ Coronavirus: Lessons Learned To Date âled by two former Conservative ministers.
The crisis has exposed “major deficiencies in the government apparatus”, with public bodies unable to share vital information and scientific advice hampered by a lack of transparency, the contribution of international experts and a significant challenge.
Despite being one of the first countries to develop a test for Covid in January 2020, the UK has ‘squandered’ its lead and ‘turned it into a permanent crisis’. The consequences have been profound, according to the report. âFor a country with world-class expertise in data analysis, facing the biggest health crisis in 100 years with virtually no data to analyze has been an almost unimaginable setback. “
Boris Johnson did not order a full lockdown until March 23, 2020, two months after the Sage committee of government science advisers first met to discuss the crisis. âThis slow and gradual approach was not unintentional, nor did it reflect bureaucratic delay or disagreement between ministers and their advisers. It was a deliberate policy – proposed by official science advisers and adopted by the governments of all nations of the UK, âthe report says.
âIt is now clear that this was bad policy and resulted in a higher initial death toll than would have resulted from a more categorical initial policy. In a pandemic that is spreading rapidly and exponentially, every week counts. ”
The decisions on closures and social distancing during the first weeks of the pandemic – and the advice leading up to them – “rank among the biggest public health failures the UK has ever seen,” the report concludes , stressing: âThis happened despite the UK having some of the best expertise available anywhere in the world, and despite an open and democratic system that has allowed for many challenges. “
The Commons Science and Technology Committee and Health and Human Services Committee report draws on evidence from more than 50 witnesses, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, senior scientific advisers and government officials and figures from the Vaccine Task Force and the NHS. Test and plot.
It celebrates aspects of the UK’s response to Covid, in particular the rapid development, approval and delivery of vaccines, and the world’s leading recovery trial which has identified life-saving treatments, but is very criticism of other areas.
Some of the most serious early failures, the report suggests, were the result of apparent group thinking among scientists and ministers that led to “fatalism.” Greg Clark, chairman of the science and technology committee, said he rejected the claim that government policy sought to achieve “herd immunity” through infection, but the result was considered the only viable option.
âIt was more of a reflection of fatalism,â Clark said. “That if you don’t have the prospect of a vaccine in development, if you think people won’t obey lockdown instructions for a very long time, and have a totally inadequate capacity to test, track down and isolate people, that’s what you’re left with. “
The “impossibility” of removing the virus was only questioned, MEPs say, when it became clear the NHS could be overwhelmed.
The report wonders why international experts were not part of the UK science advisory process and why measures that have worked in other countries were not introduced as a precaution, when a response has been crafted.
While Public Health England told MPs it had formally studied and rejected the South Korean approach, no evidence has been provided despite repeated requests.
“We must conclude that no formal assessment has taken place, which is an extraordinary and negligent omission given Korea’s success in containing the pandemic, which was well publicized at the time,” the report said.
MPs said the government’s decision to stop mass testing in March 2020 – days after the World Health Organization called for “careful contact tracing and rigorous quarantine of close contacts” – was a “big mistake”.
When the test, trace and isolation system was deployed, it was “slow, uncertain and often chaotic”, “ultimately failed in its stated goal of preventing future lockdowns” and “severely hampered the response of the United Kingdom to the pandemic â. The problem has been compounded, the report adds, by the failure of government agencies to share data, including between national and local government.
Other criticisms are leveled at the poor protection in nursing homes, for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, and for people with learning disabilities.
Oxford University Professor Trish Greenhalgh said the report hinted at a “less than healthy relationship” between the government and its scientific advisory bodies. “It would appear that even senior government ministers have been reluctant to push back scientific advice that seemed to run counter to common sense interpretations of the ongoing crisis,” she said.
“It would appear that Sage, Cobra, Public Health England and others have repeatedly rejected the precautionary principle in favor of not taking decisive action until definitive evidence has emerged and can be approved as the truth.”
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said the report was damning. Hannah Brady, of the Covid-19 Bereved Families for Justice group, said the report revealed that the deaths of 150,000 people had been “redeemed” by the successful deployment of the vaccine.
âThe reportâ¦ is laughable and more interested in the political arguments over whether to bring laptops to Cobra meetings than the experiences of those who have tragically lost parents, partners or children to Covid-19. It is an attempt to ignore and enlighten the bereaved families, who will see it as a slap in the face, âshe said.