UK govt botched initial Covid response: MPs' probe
UK lawmakers said yesterday that the government's response when COVID-19 swept into Europe cost lives and was "one of the most important public health failures" in the country's history.
In a damning assessment, a cross-party group of MPs found that official pandemic planning was too focused on influenza and had failed to learn the lessons from prior outbreaks of SARS, MERS and Ebola.
The 151-page study, published by two parliamentary committees after months of hearings, comes ahead of an independent public inquiry into the government's coronavirus handling due to begin next year.
Britain has suffered one of the highest tolls in Europe with nearly 138,000 COVID-19 deaths since March last year, raising questions about why it has fared worse than comparable nations.
The MPs said Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government had waited too long to act in early 2020.
Leading advisers had pushed a "deliberate policy" to take a "gradual and incremental approach" to interventions such as social distancing, isolation and lockdowns, said the report.
That approach had been proved "wrong" and led to a higher death toll.
"Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic – and the advice that led to them – rank as one of the most important public health failures the UK has ever experienced," the lawmakers wrote.
There was a "policy approach of fatalism about the prospects for COVID in the community," contributing to avoidable deaths in care homes after thousands of elderly patients were discharged from hospitals without testing.
But the report also praised the government's rapid launch of a mass vaccination campaign in December, arguing that had "redeemed" some of the earlier failings.
Hannah Brady, spokeswoman for the group COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, called the report overall "laughable."
"This is an attempt to ignore and gaslight bereaved families," she said.
The MPs said Britain had also mistakenly implemented "light-touch border controls" only on countries with high COVID rates, when most cases were coming from France and Spain.