A shopper wearing a protective face mask walks past the Bull statue outside the Bullring shopping centre in Birmingham, central England on August 22, 2020 (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP) (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
Campaigners and politicians from Birmingham have expressed their frustration after an MPs report found that the UK’s failure to do more to stop coronavirus spreading during the early stages of the pandemic was one of the worst ever public health failures.
The findings arrive in the long-awaited 151-page report from the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, which contain MPs from all parties.
What does the report say?
The report states that thousands of lives were lost due to serious errors and delays at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic by both ministers and their scientific advisors.
It also says it was a “serious early error” not to lockdown sooner, the decision to abandon testing for Covid in the community early “cost many lives”, and the failure to prioritise social care and discharge people from hospitals into care homes “led to many thousands of deaths”.
MPs concluded it was “astonishing” it took so long for Sage to say a full lockdown was needed and for the Government to implement one, but the report by the cross-party group also said the vaccination programme was a success, describing the research, development and rollout as “one of the most effective initiatives in UK history”.
West Midlands Covid Campaigner: ‘Public health messaging has been confused and insufficient’
The report also said that the Government approach approved by scientists was to attempt to manage the situation and achieve herd immunity by infection.
Claire Hastie founded the Long Covid Support Group in May 2020 and its Facebook page now has some 45,000 members from more than 100 countries.
Long Covid sufferer Claire, from Birmingham, said: “Herd immunity doesn’t exist with this virus because people get reinfected.
“The public health response has been wanting - the messaging has been confused, too late and insufficient over the course of the pandemic and i’d argue remains so to this date.
“No other country in Europe had a return to school uptick because they vaccinated children in the summer holidays, and other people have now been reinfected and are far worse the second time around - there is this sense that you get it once and you can tick that box that you wont get it again but that’s not how it works - and you can get long covid at any time.”
Studies suggest around two million people may have had some long-lasting symptoms in England.
Claire has been at the forefront of pushing for greater awareness and support for those, like her, for whom the condition has proved life-changing.
She said: “A number of lives have been lost and ruined and continue to be because every single day, and right now there are several thousand people who are going to be developing long Covid.”
With cases still rising across the country as we enter the winter months, Claire said the Government could be doing more to reduce transmission.
“Nobody wants lockdown and you shouldn’t have to lockdown - countries in Europe are managing a vaccine plus policy where they have masks and vaccine passports, where as we are doing only the vaccine despite knowing that breakthrough cases occur and can be pretty awful and you can still be hospitalised.”
Labour MP: ‘Some decisions were scandalous’
Following the release of the report, Erdington MP Jack Dromey, said: “This report lays bare some of the scandalous decisions taken by Ministers responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Years of cutbacks left the NHS ill-prepared and shocking decisions were taken in respect of care homes, where Covid-19 patients were discharged to from hospital and the most vulnerable in our society were put in harm’s way.
“Ministers were too slow to act and decisions they took had devastating consequences, particularly for those who lost loved ones.
“Today’s report therefore underlines why it is absolutely critical for the Government to now act without delay in setting up as soon as possible the public inquiry into their response to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Conservative MP: ‘The vaccination programme has been a success’
Gary Sambrook, Conservative MP for Northfield, Birmingham said it’s important to acknowledge the successes of the UK’s vaccination programme.
He said: “As the Prime Minister has set out a full public inquiry will be held, so that we can all learn the lessons from the pandemic.
“This report today has attempted to go some way into finding answers, but we must wait until a fuller independent report has been published. It’s important that we do not shy away from learning from mistakes, but we must also acknowledge our successes and make sure that these are built on in the future.
“Especially in relation to the vaccine rollout which has allowed us to be one of the most open economies in the world.”
What has the Government said?
In a joint statement, Tory MPs Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt, who chair the committees, said: “The UK response has combined some big achievements with some big mistakes. It is vital to learn from both to ensure that we perform as best as we possibly can during the remainder of the pandemic and in the future.
“Our vaccine programme was boldly planned and effectively executed. Our test and trace programme took too long to become effective.
“The Government took seriously scientific advice but there should have been more challenge from all to the early UK consensus that delayed a more comprehensive lockdown when countries like South Korea showed a different approach was possible.
“In responding to an emergency, when much is unknown, it is impossible to get everything right.
“We record our gratitude to all those – NHS and care workers, scientists, officials in national and local government, workers in our public services and in private businesses and millions of volunteers – who responded to the challenge with dedication, compassion and hard work to help the whole nation at one of our darkest times.”
A government spokesperson said lessons would be learned, which was why there would be a full public inquiry next year.
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