Monday, August 15

Coronavirus Report Warned of Impact in UK Four Years Before Pandemic | Health policy

Senior health officials who faced the impact of a coronavirus hitting the UK, warned four years before the start of Covid-19 of the need for stocks of PPE, a computerized contact tracing system and foreign traveler screening, may reveal The Guardian.

Calls to intensify preparations in areas already identified as deficiencies in the government’s response to Covid, stemmed from an unpublished report from a health planning exercise in February 2016 that envisioned a coronavirus outbreak.

It was commissioned by Dame Sally Davies, then Medical Director, who attended alongside officials from England’s NHS, England’s Department of Health, Public Health, and observers from decentralized administrations.

Participants envisioned cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) arriving in London and Birmingham and spreading rapidly, resulting in “a large-scale outbreak.” Like Covid, MERS causes a life-threatening respiratory illness and can be spread asymptomatically; no known treatments or vaccines.

Government ministers have stressed that pandemic planning focused more on flu, thus failing to prepare the UK for the demands a coronavirus has placed on personal protective teams, hospitals and residences.

The release of the 23-page report on Exercise Alice it is set to trigger a new scrutiny of the adequacy of the UK’s preparations.

In August, the government refused to release the file saying it could “lead to loss of public confidence in the government and NHS response to Covid-19 … based on a misinterpretation of the report.”

However, the file was turned over on Thursday under freedom of information laws to Dr. Moosa Qureshi, a doctor who campaigns for greater transparency around the government’s preparedness for the pandemic, which has claimed more than 137,417 lives to date. now, according to the government’s own figures.

Also Read  The great transformation | International

Qureshi is Publish official documents on pandemic preparedness exercises. you have obtained so far online.

Some of the key issues raised in the report became problems in the first weeks of the Covid pandemic. In March 2020, nurses and healthcare workers reported a chronic shortage of PPE, raising fears that they were spreading the virus more than necessary. This led to a fight for the right equipment as deaths and cases increased.

The UK government also continued to allow people to enter the country without screens from Covid hotspots, such as China and Italy, despite Exercise Alice’s recommendations.

Health officials involved in the 2016 coronavirus exercise believed that PPE levels were “of crucial importance to front-line personnel” and “pandemic stocks were suggested as a means of ensuring the availability of sufficient quantities.”

They also explicitly asked that a “port of entry screening” be considered to restrict the spread of the virus from abroad, and that health officials “produce a plan of options using existing evidence and cost benefits for the quarantine versus self-isolation for a variety of contact types, including symptomatic, asymptomatic, and high-risk groups. “

The exercise also raised concerns that the UK needed better systems in place to trace the contacts of people who had the virus. They suggested “a web-based tool … a live database of contacts with rankings, current status and other data related to the situation.”

In the case, the UK government launched its NHS test-and-trace service on May 28, 2020, more than two months after the first lockdown and long after the 1,000-a-day spike of the first wave of deaths.

Even in the summer of 2020, Test and Trace was unable to contact thousands of people in the areas with the highest infection rates in England, and the proportion of close contacts of infected people reached well below the 80% level that it is considered necessary for such a system to work. be effective.

Qureshi said: “Unfortunately, the government covered up Exercise Alice, a coronavirus exercise that predicted the importance of isolating patients, tracing contacts, providing PPE, trained staff and adequate NHS beds.

“The fact that Covid-19 is a new type of coronavirus is irrelevant, each pandemic is different. But the lessons from Exercise Alice were generally applicable to coronaviruses, including Covid-19, they were agreed upon by general consensus, and both political leaders and NHS England executives did not implement that consensus. “

The report also called on the government to enter into “rest contracts” to allow rapid trials of vaccines and therapies and guidelines on how doctors should prioritize specialized treatments, such as oxygenation.

Tessa Gregory, a partner at Leigh Day, the law firm that has represented Qureshi, said the government must now disclose “what follow-up actions were taken … and why issues like a proper job contact tracing system did not. they had yet been established. “

Previous pandemic planning exercises have dealt with preparations for other types of infections. A report on the three-day Cygnus Exercise, in 2016, leaked to The Guardian in May 2020, revealed problems with preparations for a flu pandemic rather than a coronavirus infection.

Lord Bethell, then Minister of Health, told parliament at the time: “It was a test for a flu pandemic, not the kind that produced Covid, and the demands on PPE, the health sector and the care sector. they went deeper than the pandemic flu trials prepared for us. “

However, Exercise Alice had already concluded: “There was a general consensus on the need to identify capacity and asset capacity within the health system. Assets in this context would be all the resources that would be required to respond effectively to a MERS-CoV outbreak, such as trained personnel, appropriate personal protective equipment in sufficient quantities, and the necessary beds with adequate clinical equipment. “

In 2019, a separate confidential briefing by the Cabinet Office warned ministers of the potentially catastrophic consequences of a pandemic and included analysis of a viral flu.

Exercise Alice, which specifically focuses on a coronavirus, adds to the weight of evidence that Covid was not lightning out of nowhere.

In May, after months of defying calls from activists, the government finally agreed to convene a statutory public inquiry into its handling of the pandemic, saying it would begin in spring 2022.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Assistance emphasized that MERS differed from SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, and said that Exercise Alice “was not a preparation exercise for a coronavirus pandemic.”

“MERS-CoV is not as easily transmitted as SARS-CoV-2 between people, the size of the outbreaks is comparatively small and the risk to people in the UK remains very low,” they said.

“The results of Exercise Alice have been incorporated into ongoing planning work by DHSC, UKHSA and the NHS to respond to potential outbreaks of serious infectious diseases such as MERS-CoV.”

They added: “We have always been clear that there will be opportunities to look back, analyze and reflect on all aspects of Covid-19, and a full independent legal investigation will begin in the spring of 2022.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.