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Coronavirus: lessons learned to date report published

12 October 2021

Covid vaccine programme “one of most effective initiatives in UK history” but delay to first lockdown a “serious error” that should have been challenged.

The House of Commons and Science and Technology Committee and Health and Social Care Committee have published their Report, Coronavirus: lessons learned to date, examining the initial UK response to the covid pandemic.

The 150-page Report contains 38 recommendations to the Government and public bodies, and draws on evidence from over 50 witnesses—including Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Professor Chris Whitty, Sir Patrick Vallance, Sir Simon Stevens, Dame Kate Bingham, Baroness Harding of Winscombe and Dominic Cummings—as well as over 400 written submissions.

The Report was agreed unanimously by members of both Select Committees, which consist of 22 MPs from three political parties—Conservative, Labour and SNP.

The joint inquiry, which began in October 2020, examined six key areas of the response to covid-19: the country's preparedness for a pandemic; the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions such as border controls, social distancing and lockdowns to control the pandemic; the use of test, trace and isolate strategies; the impact of the pandemic on social care; the impact of the pandemic on specific communities; and the procurement and roll-out of covid-19 vaccines.

The inquiry concluded that some initiatives were examples of global best practice but others represented mistakes. Both must be reflected on to ensure that lessons are applied to better inform future responses to emergencies.

In particular:

  • The forward-planning, agility and decisive organisation of the vaccine development and deployment effort will save millions of lives globally and should be a guide to future Government practice;
  • The delays in establishing an adequate test, trace and isolate system hampered efforts to understand and contain the outbreak and it failed in its stated purpose to avoid lockdowns;
  • The initial decision to delay a comprehensive lockdown—despite practice elsewhere in the world—reflected a fatalism about the spread of covid that should have been robustly challenged at the time;
  • Social care was not given sufficient priority in the early stages of the pandemic;
  • The experience of the covid pandemic underlines the need for an urgent and long term strategy to tackle health inequalities; and
  • The UK’s preparedness for a pandemic had been widely acclaimed in advance, but performed less well than many other countries in practice.

The 38 recommendations made, if implemented by the Government and by public bodies such as the NHS, would ensure that during the remaining period of the pandemic and in any new emergency, the UK could perform better by having distilled lessons—positive and negative—from the UK’s initial response to covid.

Chairs comments

In a joint statement on the publication of the Coronavirus: lessons learned to date Report, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP, Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, and Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Chair of the Science and Technology Committee, 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.”

The Report includes an Executive Summary with conclusions, recommendations and lessons learned at the end of each Chapter.

Further information

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