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We could have been ready for #COVID19. That’s what makes me so angry about this Government’s mishandling of this pandemic....1/
In late 2016, I took part in a government exercise to test how we’d deal with a pandemic when I was at @MoJGovUK. It was called Ex Cygnus. @cabinetofficeuk was in charge of running it and acting on the conclusions @NickFerrariLBC… ...2/
This was a well-developed 3-day exercise. Ministers had to decide what to do as the overwhelming scale of the pandemic became apparent. (NB in contrast to #COVID19, there was a treatment for, and vaccine against, this virus; yet the realities & outcomes were still sobering) 3/
At the time, I was impressed; the exercise was thorough and we learned what we needed to do to prepare for a pandemic. Yes, I had some concerns (@SamCoatesSky wrote about one of them in @thetimes in 2017). But I was confident we’d sort ourselves out 4/…
The Civil Service report on the exercise and its “lessons identified” were not made public but the-then CMO @UKAMREnvoy told the World Innovation Summit for Health in Dec 2016 that the UK “could not cope with the excess bodies” and had “inadequate ventilation” in its hospitals 5/
She explained that “in a moderate or severe influenza pandemic, demand [for critical care services] may outstrip supply, even when capacity is maximised.” Yet this doesn’t seem to have made any difference to our subsequent planning… ...6/
Instead, @MattHancock had to issue a hurried plea for manufacturers to produce new ventilators - a call which came some 6 weeks after the first reported #COVID19 case in the UK...7/
Serious questions need to be asked of the ministers and civil servants responsible for acting on the findings of that 2016 exercise. Who was in charge of getting us ready for a pandemic (something we knew was a top risk), and what went wrong?… 8/
What was done to improve intelligence-gathering from places like China, where novel viruses appear more often? Why are we quite so dependent on other (sometimes hostile) states to flag a new virus quickly, particularly one with such worrying morbidity and mortality rates? 9/
Why did the Government not act in January, when we first knew we had a problem. @TheLancet noted that the disease caused significant respiratory pathology; we knew then that we had nowhere near enough ventilators… 10/
We knew there was no effective treatment for #COVID19 and yet made no serious effort to reduce the spread of the virus into Britain. This pandemic was always going to be challenging; it has been made worse by the government’s failings....11/
In sharp contrast, the public’s fantastic response, both in volunteering and businesses stepping up to manufacture essential kits, has been humbling. Would it have made a difference if we’d shared the lessons from the 2016 exercise with them earlier? 12/
Could we have mobilised this great effort in good time, not in extremis; calm preparation, not delay & panic? I think so: pandemics have been a threat for ages & I raised it repeatedly -5’15” & -3’05”. We must now learn lessons 13/
Either way, we must make our systems fit-for-purpose, elect good people, not just those who political parties can rely on to shut up, not put up. Lives have been lost unnecessarily because we’ve failed to put calm, wise and authoritative people in charge. Let’s change 14/
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