BRITAIN was “too sluggish” to act in the fight against coronavirus and prepared for “the wrong pandemic”, Jeremy Hunt has admitted.
The previous health secretary stated the government had increase strategies to handle the influenza – but overlooked the threat positioned by other infections.
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Speaking to Sky News, Mr Hunt acknowledged that his choices had actually left the NHS less ready to handle the infection when it showed up in the UK last year.
He said: “We planned thoroughly for pandemics … however we now understand we were preparing for an influenza pandemic.
” There was a ‘group think’ that pandemics were most likely to be flu … we certainly know that’s not the case now.
” As a nation – we have actually not got everything right in our pandemic handling.”
He added: “We need to discover lessons – and the biggest lesson of all is that in a pandemic you have to act faster than the infection.
” We were too sluggish to lockdown, we were too slow to get PPE problems sorted out and to get the Track and Trace capability up and running.”
‘ TOO SLOW’
Mr Hunt, who led the Department of Health in between 2012 and 2018, also told the British Medical Journal that the federal government had actually previously planned for a “worst case circumstance” flu pandemic.
In October 2016, the Federal government carried out Workout Cygnus, which included 950 officials from main and city government, the NHS, jails and local emergency reaction coordinators.
The objective was to evaluate plans for a future “worst-case-scenario” influenza season affecting up to 50% of the population and triggering 200,000 to 400,000 excess deaths.
Mr Hunt said: “We did exhaustive pandemic preparations; we were lauded by Johns Hopkins University as being the second best prepared nation worldwide.
” However we were regretfully likewise part of a groupthink that said that the primary way that you react to a pandemic is the influenza pandemic playbook (with a focus on areas like vaccination and boosting hospital capability).”.
He included that, rather, the government ought to have concentrated on “methods that you would use for Sars and Mers (surveillance and containment, community screening, contact tracing and seclusion, and stockpiling PPE, and ventilators).”.
Mr Hunt went on: “That was not unique to the UK. That was shared in the US and throughout Europe.
” But it’s why there is this plain difference in the efficiency of our actions compared to nations in East Asia.
” That indicated that we didn’t have test and trace ability at the outset, but also that we spent much too long choosing to do it.”.
Countries such as South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore were able to efficiently contain the pandemic through a mix of substantial agreement tracing, mass testing and stringent border controls.
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Mr Hunt also paid tribute to the UK’s effective vaccine rollout, as it emerged the other day that over 13 million Brits had received the jab.
He added: “We have been among the fastest worldwide when it comes to vaccine approval and distribution which I believe is our terrific hope,” he said.
” And the NHS can be very pleased with what it has done.”