Government’s early Covid response ‘amounted in practice’ to herd immunity, MPs say

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The government’s pursuit of herd immunity for Covid-19 “amounts in practice”, a parliamentary report has found, adding that the delayed decision to lock down last spring was one of the “most significant public health failures”. ranks as the United Kingdom has ever experienced”.

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Ministers have repeatedly denied that the government has sought to build up population immunity against the virus by allowing it to spread freely in Britain. However, the findings of a cross-party inquiry suggest that this was an “effective outcome” of the initial response to COVID, resulting in thousands of avoidable deaths.

The report said that instead of trying to suppress the virus in early 2020, as other countries did, the UK sought to manage its spread through the community by gradually introducing social distancing measures. demanded, the report said.


More than 50 witnesses contributed to the 150-page report, including ministers, NHS officials, government advisers and leading scientists. It concludes that:

  • Government experts were corrected on influenza before 2020 and did not see coronaviruses as a threat to the UK
  • The government initially adopted a “deliberate policy” that “in practice amounted” to demands for herd immunity. Instead of suppressing the infection, the management’s decision proved fatal for thousands.
  • The abandonment of community testing on 12 March was a “fundamental failure” and “many lives were lost”.
  • NHS Test and Trace has “failed to have a sufficient impact on the course of the pandemic to justify the level of public investment”
  • Social care has been overlooked by the government during the pandemic, while minority ethnic communities have experienced high levels of death in their early stages.

Labor said the report reinforced the urgent need for a public inquiry “so mistakes of such tragic magnitude are never repeated again”, while its authors said it was “important” to draw lessons from the failures of the past 18 months. been learned.

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The cross-party report, led by two select committees for health and science, is based on 400 written statements and accounts from various officials involved in the UK response, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Dominic Cummings. Former Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister.

It examines six key areas: pandemic preparedness before 2020; lockdown and social distancing; testing and tracing; Social care and the impact of the crisis on at-risk communities; and the rollout of vaccines.

Before the emergence of Covid, the UK’s pandemic planning was too “narrowly and inflexibly based on a flu model” that failed to learn lessons from SARS, Mers and Ebola, MPs heard.

Former chief medical officer Professor Dame Sally Davis told the investigation that there was “groupthink”, infectious disease experts did not believe that “Sir, or any other Sir, would get us from Asia”. He compared it to “a form of British exceptionalism”.

Lawmakers concluded that, in the early months of the crisis, those in power were working through a “veil of ignorance” that was “partly self-inflicted”, with ministers and scientific advisers from other countries. Unwilling to learn from experiences and tactics. especially in East Asia.

It was an “unforgivable oversight”, the report said, adding that a culture of “groupthink” had taken hold in Downing Street, which should have been challenged. Instead of “making every effort to contain the virus” – such as the governments in South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong – the government instead took a “slow and gradual approach”.

Driven by the desire to protect the economy, and the belief among Sage members that a complete suppression of COVID will lead to a second wave later in 2020, the option of lockdown has been initially considered as a gradual introduction to social distancing policies. were rejected in favour, those who sought to moderate. Spreading speed and flattening of the curve of the first peak.

Given the lack of a vaccine and the UK’s limited testing capacity, MPs were “to accept that herd immunity from infection was the inevitable consequence”, MPs said, meant to protect the population from catching There were no real solutions. Virus.

Even as late as 12 March, Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said preventing everyone from becoming infected was not possible nor was it a desirable objective.

This was a “deliberate” and “questionable” policy, the lawmakers concluded, which was seriously wrong in believing that “an unknown and large-scale virus could be controlled so precisely” and which led to the “preliminary The mortality rate was higher than that as a result of a more vigorous initial policy”.

The report said the officials leading the response failed to question the prevailing scientific consensus, which had been established in the government. Mr Cummings told lawmakers he was “incredibly intimidated” to challenge the “official plan”, while Mr Hancock said he regretted the failure to dismantle the “bitter” scientific advice.

It was told in the investigation that if the government had changed its stand a week earlier and implemented the lockdown on March 16, then thousands of deaths could have been prevented.

“As a result, the decisions on lockdown and social distancing during the early weeks of the pandemic – and the advice given to them – rank as one of the most significant public health failures the United Kingdom has ever faced,” the report concludes.

It also says that the abandonment of community testing on 12 March was a “fundamental failure” and “many lives were lost”. NHS Test and Trace was set up in May 2020, but its “chaotic” performance throughout the year has “disrupted” the UK’s response to COVID-19, culminating in the imposition of two more lockdowns.

“A great deal of taxpayer money was directed to Test and Trace, justified by the benefits of avoiding further …


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