Report: British Govt Knew UK Wasn’t Prepared for Pandemic Last Year

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The government of the United Kingdom was warned last year that the country was not prepared for a pandemic, with a report projecting tens of thousands of dead and trillions of pounds spent.

The 2019 National Security Risk Assessment (NSRA) warned that a pandemic would cause catastrophic social and economic consequences. The report suggested that the government should stockpile supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), set up a system for contact tracing infected people, and create contingency plans for a surge in the number of deaths.

The 600-page Cabinet Office document seen by The Guardian analysed the potential issues that would be caused by an outbreak of viral influenza, as well as the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic, using the models of SARS and MERS, both of which were coronaviruses, as an example.

The report found that in the event of a moderately viral pandemic the United Kingdom could face up to 65,600 deaths and costs of £2.35 trillion.

Sources within the government said that the recommendations laid out were not heeded and that the country had been “caught out” in failing to prepare for the pandemic.

“There was a national plan for dealing with a pandemic that should have been implemented. But who took control of that? And who was responsible for making sure that plans were being made at a local level? The truth is, I am not sure anyone was doing this.” one source said.

“We have been paying for a third-party fire and theft insurance for a pandemic, not a comprehensive one. We have been caught out,” the source added.

Boris Johnson’s government has been widely criticised for its failure to secure sufficient amounts of PPE as well as its refusal to implement travel bans, with some 100,000 unchecked people continuing to pour into the country through the nation’s airports without any requirement to self-isolate on arrival.

Labour Shadow Cabinet minister Rachel Reeves said that the leaked document was “alarming” and that it “raised serious questions about the government’s planning and preparedness for a coronavirus-style pandemic”.

In response to the revelations, a government spokesman claimed: “This is an unprecedented global pandemic and we have taken the right steps at the right time to combat it, guided at all times by the best scientific advice.”

“The government has been proactive in implementing lessons learned around pandemic preparedness. This includes being ready with legislative proposals that could rapidly be tailored to what became the Coronavirus Act, plans to strengthen excess death planning, planning for recruitment and deployment of retired staff and volunteers, and guidance for stakeholders and sectors across government,” they added.

The United Kingdom has recorded more than 20,000 deaths from the Chinese coronavirus. However, an analysis conducted by the Financial Times suggests that the real death toll may be as high as 41,000 — as the government’s statistics fail to count deaths outside of hospitals.

Follow Kurt on Twitter at @KurtZindulka

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