Chris Whitty: Britain’s Covid plans were ‘woefully deficient’ — even for a flu pandemic

Britain’s pandemic plans earlier than Covid struck were “not notably useful” and would have been “woefully poor” for even a flu pandemic, England’s chief medical officer has mentioned.

Many have prompt that points early within the pandemic were all the way down to the truth that the UK’s pandemic preparedness plans were drawn as much as take care of flu as a substitute of a coronavirus.

And professor Sir Chris Whitty informed the Covid inquiry that it was clear in early 2020 that the plan was not going to be notably useful within the disaster, having been drawn up by individuals who had simply gone by the swine flu pandemic, which had a very low dying fee.

He mentioned there are some good “constructing blocks” inside the doc however many of those blocks needed to be constructed “in a rush” within the early days of the pandemic.

“I appeared on the pandemic flu plan on the level once we were starting to fret about this … And it was fairly clear that it wasn’t going to offer us any explicit assist, frankly,” he mentioned.

“So my view was we didn’t have a plan that was going to be helpful from a prevention or administration perspective – it had a lot of, a massive variety of helpful parts inside it.

“However the thought there was a respiratory pandemic plan for the type of pandemic this was going to be, if it was going to be a drawback, that we may simply take off the shelf and observe the playbook, was optimistic at finest.”

On a lengthy day of typically testy exchanges between Sir Chris and the inquiry’s lead counsel Hugo Keith KC:

  • Sir Chris described how a “row” erupted when Dominic Cummings mentioned he needed to attend Sage conferences in the course of the pandemic
  • He mentioned Boris Johnson had a “distinctive” decision-making type, prompting Mr Keith to answer: “That’s a euphemism if I’ve ever heard one”
  • The chief medical officer mentioned the previous prime minister was higher in a position to focus when “in a small group”
  • Sir Chris mentioned the choice to implement Britain’s first lockdown was taken “a bit too late”
  • However he disregarded claims of a row with former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, claiming variations between them “were extraordinarily small”
  • And he rejected the outline of him as a “delayer”, saying that he didn’t push again in opposition to measures to sort out the pandemic however needed “the downsides to be made clear”
  • Sir Chris described the pandemic mantra of “following the science” as being a “millstone” round his neck

Quizzed over the federal government’s pandemic plans, Sir Chris mentioned: “Had we had a flu pandemic, with a virus that had a mortality of, for the sake of argument, 1 per cent to 2 per cent, which is what we were considering of at this time limit, it might even have been woefully poor.

“So it was not that it was about flu and this was Covid – that had some vital variations – it was concerning the truth this wasn’t designed, for my part, to satisfy this explicit want in any respect.”

He mentioned that it was clear that the pandemic preparedness plans had been drawn up by “individuals who had simply been by a pandemic by which the mortality was very low”.

However he added: “If there had been a plan that laid out ‘that is how the playbook ought to run’ it might virtually definitely have been the incorrect plan and will even have slowed us down as a result of we might have then spent ages arguing about whether or not this was the fitting plan and adapting the plan.

“So typically it’s simpler really to begin with a new plan however what we would have liked was all of the constructing blocks.

“And for my part, we had a number of the constructing blocks, intellectually and virtually, however we positively didn’t have all, they were constructed in lots of circumstances in fairly a rush actually in February and early March.”

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