These days he is “living with Covid” but has been criticized for making avoidable mistakes that led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.
It was the country that gave the world one of the most widely used and effective vaccines and came out of prison before many.
But the UK has come under fire in a report by its own MPs that said the early response to Covid-19 was one of the worst “public health failures ever experienced”.
Britain has seen more than 8 million Covid cases with 138,000 deaths. For a time it was one of the worst affected countries in the world during the pandemic.
Research by two select House of Commons committees found that closed closings came too late, testing rates were low, and there was a poorly thought-out plan for herd immunity that had to be quickly abandoned as cases increased. .
He said there was a “veil of ignorance”; that it descended on the Government and that it caused serious errors that were “self-inflicted”.
UK allowed massive sporting events as Covid raged
The UK registered its first case of Covid-19 on January 31, but it took almost two months for a national shutdown to occur at the end of March.
In the weeks leading up to that lockdown, when Covid-19 was already ravaging continental Europe, the UK allowed two major sporting events to take place that may have been super-spreading events.
On March 11, a soccer match was held between Liverpool FC and Atlético de Madrid, just as the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. The Cheltenham Horse Racing Festival took place March 10-13 with a quarter of a million people in attendance. At the same time, Australia was limiting events to just 500 people.
The report,Coronavirus: lessons learned to date, primarily focused on England, where Covid’s response was the responsibility of the UK government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Much of the response in the other nations of the United Kingdom, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, was the responsibility of their regional governments.
Comprised of the views of 22 Scottish Conservative, Labor and Nationalist MPs on the health and welfare and science and technology committees, it stated that while Britain’s preparedness for a pandemic had been widely acclaimed in advance, in practice its performance it was worse than many others. countries.
It was previously reported that Johnson missed five consecutive meetings of the country’s coronavirus emergency committee, called Cobra, in early 2020 as the pandemic unfolded.
Later he would almost die of the disease.
Worst ‘public health failures’ in UK history
The report said that ministers and officials did not challenge the scientific consensus in the early days of the pandemic, resulting in “groupthink” which meant that the UK did not see the approaches being used successfully in the countries of the United Kingdom. East Asia to stop the spread of Covid-19, which could have bought valuable time.
Preparations for a future pandemic focused too much on the flu. That underestimated the impact that a non-flu infectious disease could have, only warning that it could lead to “up to 100 deaths.” In fact, more than 150,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the UK.
The report says there was a “fatalistic” consensus, accepting that herd immunity from infection was inevitable, but this should have been questioned.
“It is now clear that this was the wrong policy and that it led to a higher initial death toll than would have resulted from a more emphatic early policy. In a rapidly and exponentially spreading pandemic, every week counts. “
“The veil of ignorance through which the UK saw the first weeks of the pandemic was partly self-inflicted,” the report says.
“Decisions on lockdowns and social distancing, and the councils that drove them, rank as one of the most significant public health failures the UK has ever experienced.
“This happened despite some of the best knowledge available anywhere in the world.”
One glaring flaw in the UK’s initial response was its ability to test Covid-19. That was despite the UK having a Covid test running, one of the world’s first, as early as January 2020.
However, a system for testing was not put in place until cases had reached more than 2,000 infections per day. Until June 2020, only limited testing could be done, which likely led to a large number of early cases.
But the vaccines were a great British success
However, the UK’s efforts to produce and procure vaccines were praised, including the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine, which has been given to more people around the world than any other.
The report said that the UK vaccine program was “for a country of our size, one of the most effective in the world.”
Much of that was due to the UK’s support for vaccine research even before the pandemic and its early recognition that punctures were the ‘long-term route’ out of the coronavirus.
“Ultimately, millions of lives will be saved as a result of the global vaccine effort in which the UK has played a leading role.
“In the UK alone, the successful deployment of effective vaccines, as of September 2021, enabled the resumption of much of normal life with incalculable benefits to people’s lives, livelihoods and society.”
Conservative MPs Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark, who chaired the committees, said it was “impossible to get everything right.”
“The UK has combined great achievements with great mistakes. It is vital to learn from both, ”they said.
The report suggested the establishment of a permanent part of the government “to scan the horizon for future threats.” In future crises, government advisers should include more experts from outside the UK.
“As painful as it is, the UK must learn whatever lessons it can from why this happened if we are to ensure that it does not happen again,” he said.