LONDON – Delay in a lockdown in the UK and lack of prioritization of social care caused thousands of deaths that could be avoided, according to a parliamentary report on experience so far from the coronavirus pandemic.
The joint investigation published Tuesday by the House of Commons ‘Science and Health Committees, lawmakers’ first plug is digging into why Britain, originally praised for its pandemic contingency planning, is causing skyrocketing and deaths far beyond many comparable countries. To date, coronavirus deaths in the UK have risen to more than 150,000, placing the country in the Top 10 worldwide in total deaths, according to the World Health Organization data.
The joint report noted that while some initiatives were examples of global best practice, others represented serious errors.
The report praised the “remarkable” performance of the National Health Service in expanding ventilator and intensive care capacity and underscores the success of the Vaccines task force in rapidly delivering life-saving vaccines that were rolled out at speed. The country’s clinical trials testing for COVID-19 treatments have also been “world-leading,” it said.
But the delay in decisive action to impose a home order “reflected a fatalism about the spread of COVID, which at the time should have been strongly challenged,” the committees said.
Accepting that herd immunity to infection was the inevitable result, the report said the UK made a “serious early mistake in adopting this fatalistic approach” and did not consider a strict targeted public health approach to stop the spread of the virus, as adopted by many East and Southeast Asian countries.
“The British response has combined some great achievements with some great mistakes,” Health Committee Chairman Jeremy Hunt and Science Committee Chairman Greg Clark – both members of the ruling Conservative party – said in a statement. “It is important to learn from both to ensure that we do our best during the rest of the pandemic and in the future.”
The 150-page report is based on evidence from more than 50 people, including former Health Secretary Matt Hancock, former No. 10 adviser Dominic Cummings, scientific adviser Patrick Vallance and England chief physician Chris Whitty.
There were areas where Britain, despite technological advances, failed to capitalize, it found. For example, the country was one of the first in the world to develop a coronavirus test, but failed to translate it into an effective testing and tracking system.
In fact, “the slow, uncertain and often chaotic performance of the test, tracking and isolation system severely hampered Britain’s response to the pandemic,” the report said.
It was a big mistake to start a centralized testing and tracking model as opposed to using local public health experts.
“Public health directors and their teams working in councils know their areas best,” said David Fothergill, chairman of the local community welfare board, who also noted that such officials were “ultimately” brought in to help the national test and tracking system.
When the national government suspended routine, symptomatic COVID testing of members of the public early in the pandemic, it interrupted its ability to analyze the epidemiology of the virus, and its wealth of data experts had no data to interrogate, leaving the ship helpless.
The report also pointed out what it said were many flaws in social care, from a lack of early scientific advice, to a lack of prioritization of personal protective equipment for staff, to rapid discharge of patients from hospitals back home without proper testing.
Together, these led to “many thousands of deaths that could have been avoided,” lawmakers said.
They added that social and economic inequalities in health were exacerbated by the pandemic, noting “unacceptably high death rates among people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.” The same was true for people with learning disabilities.
“Considerations for people with learning disabilities and autistic people” have been an “reflection”, said Michael Absoud, honorary lecturer at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at King’s College London. persistently large gaps in access to care. “
Penny Ward, an independent drug doctor and visiting professor at King’s College London, argued that the report is self-congratulations on the vaccine’s “success” and foresight in the Vaccines Task Force.
“However, we have failed to ensure adequate uptake of vaccination among younger adults and teenagers and some higher risk communities, ”she said,“ especially those of African heritage – which is at least one possible reason for the continued circulation of infection resulting in more than 700 admissions and 100 deaths daily on average in the UK at present. ”
She also pointed out that the UK has failed to introduce antiviral drugs to treat COVID-19 and has limited access to monoclonal antibody therapies, which could save many more lives if made widely available.
The report contained 38 recommendations to the UK government that coordinated international resilience planning, including reform of the World Health Organization; to allow immediate data flows between relevant bodies to give the Armed Forces a more central role.
Individually, the government has also committed itself to launching a full public inquiry into the mistakes made in dealing with the pandemic; the evidence gathered by the committees will be available for this study.