What about the role of politicians, especially previous Health Secretaries in contributing to failure? Owl
Kate Devlin Whitehall Editor www.independent.co.uk
The former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has said lives could have been saved if the UK had ramped up coronavirus testing sooner, as he attacked “one of the biggest failures of scientific advice to ministers in our lifetimes”.
Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Hunt said it was clear there had been a “major blindspot” in the approach taken in Europe and America.
Both continents prepared for and focused on pandemic flu, not pandemic coronaviruses such as Sars or Mers, he said.
Asian countries that did the opposite have seen lower death tolls since the pandemic began.
They include South Korea, which has had fewer than 10 deaths on any single day, and Singapore which has had fewer than two dozen deaths.
By contrast more than 30,000 people have now died from Covid-19 in the UK.
Mr Hunt told MPs: “The failure to look at what these countries were doing at the outset will rank, I am afraid, as one of the biggest failures of scientific advice to ministers in our lifetimes.”
He warned the lack of transparency around the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which advises ministers, hindered the UK’s response.
There was a “systemic failure caused by the secrecy that shrouds everything Sage does. Because its advice is not published it cannot be subjected to scientific challenge”.
Had Sage’s advice been published in January, he said, “an army of scientists from our universities could have challenged why testing and contact tracing was not being modelled. They could have demanded a ramp up of testing and challenged the behavioural assumptions that delayed lockdown”.
The result could have been “many lives saved” he said.
Ministers insist they have followed the science amid signs of increasing tension between ministers and advisers over how to fight the global pandemic and protect the economy.