A report from the National Audit Office published this morning reveals Brexit preparations hindered the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic how badly prepared the government was a major health emergency. :
This pandemic has exposed a vulnerability to whole-system emergencies – that is, emergencies that are so broad that they engage the entire system. Although the government had plans for an influenza pandemic, it did not have detailed plans for many non-health consequences and some health consequences of a pandemic like COVID-19. There were lessons from previous simulation exercises that were not fully implemented and would have helped prepare for a pandemic like COVID-19. There was limited oversight and assurance of plans in place, and many pre-pandemic plans were not adequate. In addition, there is variation in capacity, capability and maturity of risk management across government departments.
Ed Davey call on Boris Johnson to apologise: “That failure has cost many lives and contributed to an economic collapse the scale of which we are yet to understand. Most hurt of all will be a generation of school children left behind by the Conservatives.”
Britain, we were told by political leaders, was one of the best prepared countries in the world for a pandemic. They it went wrong. Badly wrong. Across the UK, nearly 167,000 people who died since March 2020 had Covid mentioned on their death certificate. The cost to the taxpayer has been £261 billion so far. Seemingly unwilling to have its failures exposed, the government has said the public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic will not start before the spring. But we have independent watchdogs. In October, a joint report by the Commons Health and Social Care and the Science and Technology committees praised the success of the vaccination programme but said the late lockdown in the early stages of the pandemic is “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced”. It also described the beginning of the NHS Test and Trace system as “slow, uncertain and often chaotic”.
Today’s report from the National Audit Office says that Brexit hampered planning, with 56 out of 94 members of the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat working full time on no-deal preparations. The work of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Programme Board was “paused or postponed to free up resources for EU Exit work”.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Lib Dems, said today:
This is a damning report that reveals a comprehensive failure from government to prepare adequately for the pandemic.
That failure has cost many lives and contributed to an economic collapse the scale of which we are yet to understand. Most hurt of all will be a generation of school children left behind by the Conservatives who still refuse to make more funding available to help pupils catch up.
The Prime Minister must apologise for this failure and acknowledge that an apology is only the beginning of the process. We need an immediate full inquiry and he must make £15 billion available for children to catch up on their education as his own government advisor recommended.
The NAO concluded:
The pandemic has also highlighted the need to strengthen national resilience to prepare for any future events of this scale, and the challenges the government faces in balancing the need to prepare for future events while dealing with day-to-day issues and current events.
* Andy Boddington is a Lib Dem councillor in Shropshire. He blogs at andybodders.co.uk. He is Friday editor of Lib Dem Voice.