Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt admits HE was part of ‘groupthink’ that wrongly prepared Britain for a flu pandemic instead of one triggered by a coronavirus

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  • Mr Hunt says Britain should have been locked down earlier at the start of the pandemic
  • Health select committee chairman says Boris Johnson is ‘finally responsible’
  • But he says the ‘groupthink’ advice given by experts at the time was wrong

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Jeremy Hunt admits he was part of ‘groupthink’ that focused too heavily on the flu and failed to adequately plan for a coronavirus pandemic.


Jeremy Hunt admitted today that he was part of a ‘groupthink’ that unfairly focused too much on the flu and failed to adequately plan for the coronavirus pandemic.

The former health secretary said the UK should have been locked down earlier, acknowledging the main path of disastrous reports of the government’s failures to tackle the pandemic.

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And he acknowledged that Boris Johnson was ‘of course ultimately responsible’, but hit back saying some of the advice he had received was ‘even wrong’.

Mr Hunt’s comments follow a damning inquiry by lawmakers, which concluded that thousands of care home residents died unnecessarily because they were perceived by ministers as an ‘afterthought’.

It claimed the failure of No10 to be shut down early stemmed from ‘false groupthink’ among scientific advisers who wanted to manage the spread of the virus rather than suppress it.

The ministers followed protocols based on modeling for the flu pandemic, not the coronavirus.

Responding to today’s report, Mr Hunt told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘One group had the idea that the way you deal with a pandemic should be similar to a flu pandemic.

‘I was part of that groupthink even when I was health secretary.

‘During that period, an American university said we were the second best prepared country in the world.’

Mr Hunt says the UK should have been locked down earlier and 'of course the prime minister is responsible, but some of the advice he got was also wrong'.  Pictured: Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street with Government Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty

Mr Hunt says the UK should have been locked down earlier and ‘of course the prime minister is responsible, but some of the advice he got was also wrong’. Pictured: Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street with Government Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty

The UK has played a key role in saving lives during the Covid pandemic by leading the world in vaccine development, the report said

The report concluded that Britain led the world in vaccine development and medical research during the pandemic – saving millions of lives globally.

MPs said the jab vaccine program was ‘one of the most amazing scientific achievements in history’ and it ‘liberated’ many of the UK’s other policy failures.

He praised the project ‘boldly planned and effectively executed’, which meant the UK was the first Western country to launch a vaccine against COVID.

It was a ‘masterstroke’ to bring on Dame Kate Bingham, a venture capitalist, as head of the newly established Vaccine Taskforce in May 2020, the report said.

It said the government “quickly recognized that a vaccine would be the way out of the pandemic” and invested heavily in development, Oxford-AstraZeneca providing £20 million to fully fund clinical trials of the vaccine. did.

The report praised an ‘aggressive’ approach, meaning the UK had secured agreements for more than 300 million vaccine doses as of November last year.

It said the UK medical regulator took an ‘agile and innovative’ approach to continuously review trial data so that vaccines can be deployed as quickly as possible.

This meant Britain was the first Western country to approve a vaccine, and on December 8 last year, Margaret Keenan, 91, of Coventry, became the first person in the world to receive a COVID-19 jab outside of clinical trials. .

The report concluded: ‘The UK immunization program – from the discovery of potential vaccines against COVID-19 to the vaccination of nearly 80 percent of the adult population by 1 September 2021 – has been one of the most successful and effective initiatives in history. UK Science and Public Administration.

‘The global vaccine effort will ultimately result in millions of lives being saved, with the UK playing a major role.

‘In the UK alone, the successful deployment of effective vaccines has allowed the resumption of normal life, with incalculable benefits to people’s lives, by September 2021.’


He added: ‘We know that was clearly not the case.’

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who stood down last month, previously acknowledged that ‘famously all the preparations and plans that were in place were in place for a flu pandemic’.

UK health chiefs battled several flu pandemic scenarios before the onset of Covid.

And No10’s response to the coronavirus crisis was based largely on policies that were believed to have worked against the flu.

But this week it emerged that officials did indeed battle such a scenario.

Operation Alice, carried out in 2016, even recommended that ministers start stockpiling personal protective equipment (PPE), invest in a digital contact-tracing system and begin testing foreign travelers.

The government has been criticized in all three of these areas of its response to the actual pandemic, despite recommendations to prepare for them that came four years before the crisis.

Mr Hunt, now chair of the Committee on Health and Social Care, said countries that have had direct experience of SARS and Mers were the ones that responded best to the pandemic in the first half.

Asked about the impact of Mr Johnson’s personality at the start of the pandemic, Mr Hunt suggested the PM delay the lockdown because he was following the advice, not because he thought it would be ‘unpopular’.

He said: ‘The personality of every PM matters. But in this particular case.. he was following scientific advice.

‘And the question we have to ask is, in those early months across the system, why was everyone advising the wrong approach?’

Mr Hunt said when images of the pandemic hit TV screens in the UK in Italy, the focus was on hospitals rather than other places such as care homes.

One of the biggest errors made at the start of the pandemic was that hospitals discharged thousands of patients to care.


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