Eleven pandemic exercises were carried out before Covid, government admits

The government has revealed that eleven pandemic exercises were conducted between 2015 and 2019 – but it is refusing to release the results on grounds of national security.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been accused of “covering up secret reports” during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The tests included Exercise Alice, which in 2016 tested the UK’s readiness to tackle Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), another type of coronavirus.

So far, the government has only admitted to running Operation Cygnus in 2016, which simulated a flu pandemic in three days.

The exercise came to the fore after a doctor campaigned for transparency on how well the government had prepared the NHS for the pandemic.

Musa Qureshi submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act seeking information on the handling of any pandemic.

His request was denied on national security grounds, so he asked for an internal review.

Now Public Health England (PHE) has told them that the national security exemption is no longer in force.

The pandemic exercises that have been disclosed include three to combat Ebola outbreaks, three to flu pandemics, two to combat Lassa, one to combat viral hemorrhagic fever and two to bird flu.

PHE has refused to release the results of the tests, saying doing so would harm national security.

Qureshi, a hospital consultant, said: “The Health Secretary told Parliament that Exercise Cygnus looked at the UK’s preparedness for the flu pandemic – not for other pandemics – but the truth is that he has been secretive on preparedness for other pandemics. is covering reports, including a coronavirus pandemic.”

He said transparency and public scrutiny improve pandemic preparedness.

“We are facing a third pandemic wave and there will be epidemics in the future. Let’s stop doing politics and be scientific with it. “

Last month, former No 10 adviser Dominic Cummings claimed that the government’s “secrecy” in the Covid crisis “contributed greatly to the devastation”.

independent The Department of Health and Social Care has been asked to respond.


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