COVID response is one of UK’s worst ‘public health failures’

A damning parliamentary report on Britain’s handling of the pandemic lists a catalog of errors, including the delay in the lockdown.

The UK government’s early response to COVID-19 and the delay in imposing a lockdown early last year was “one of the biggest public health failures” in history across the country and claimed thousands of lives, according to a damning parliamentary report.

The multi-stakeholder group of UK lawmakers also noted that the government had failed to develop an effective testing and traceability system, which could have helped curb the spread of the virus, and followed a policy of what effectively amounted to “collective immunity”.

“The UK, along with many other countries in Europe and North America, made a serious early error in taking this fatalistic approach and failing to consider a more categorical and rigorous approach to halt the spread of the disease. virus, as adopted by many countries in East and Southeast Asia, ”the 151-page report released Tuesday said. The review was based on testimony hours from more than 50 witnesses, including public policy, health and science advisers.

More than 138,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the UK, one of the highest death rates in the world.

As the country’s main emergency decision-making body first met over COVID-19 on January 4, 2020, lawmakers said, a lockdown was not imposed until March 23 of this year. The “phased and incremental approach” to non-pharmaceutical interventions is costing lives, he added.

“The decisions on lockdowns and social distancing in the first few weeks of the pandemic – and the advice leading up to them – are among the most significant public health failures the UK has ever seen,” they said. writing.

More than 138,000 people in the UK have died from the coronavirus, and the government will open an official investigation next year [File: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA]

Professor Neil Ferguson, who was part of the government science advisory group for emergencies (SAGE), told the science and technology committee that if the national lockdown had been imposed even a week earlier than it was was, “we would have reduced the final death toll by at least half”. Former Health Minister Matt Hancock and Dominic Cummings, former adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, were also among those who testified before the committees.

The report also criticized the government’s decision to send elderly patients to nursing homes without testing them for the coronavirus – a move that has led to an increase in cases among the population’s most vulnerable – as well as the taking decision-making process for ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.

He noted some areas where the UK has done well, citing its vaccine program and research into treatment development.

“A significant part of the success of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine is due to the government’s early investments in research and development which originally started with the UK Vaccines Network established in 2016,” the report says. “This investment and support from successive governments has clearly paid off. “

He also noted that more than 42,000 volunteers worldwide had been recruited for randomized trials of COVID-19 treatments as part of the RECOVERY trial.

“Establishing the effectiveness of dexamethasone and the ineffectiveness of hydrochloroquine have been vital contributions to the global battle against covid-19 and are believed to have saved over a million lives worldwide,” he said. declared.

The report noted that the UK government’s vaccination program was a positive, with early investments paying off in the development of the Oxford AstraZeneca shot. [File: Andy Rain/EPA]

The report precedes an independent public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which Johnson says will begin next year.

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