Nick Ferrari's extraordinary exchange with Care Minister over pandemic test exercise

30 March 2020, 08:39

Nick Ferrari was involved in an extraordinary exchange with the Care Minister after she claimed the UK was well-prepared for the coronavirus pandemic.

Nick asked Helen Whately about Exercise Cygnus, an operation carried out three years ago to test the government's preparedness for a pandemic.

Ministers were warned that the UK would be overwhelmed by a shortage of critical care beds, ventilators, morgue capacity and protective kits. The findings from the exercise were deemed "too sensitive" to be made public and remain classified.

Nick suggested the government knew this was coming and didn't respond, but Ms Whately insisted it showed they were well-prepared.

Nick Ferrari had a fiery row with Care Minister Helen Whately
Nick Ferrari had a fiery row with Care Minister Helen Whately. Picture: LBC / PA

She said: "The important thing is that we run pandemic flu exercises that for instance, in every area where you have a local resilience forum, they all had pandemic flu plans, which means to be ready to cope with coronavirus, it's been a matter of updating those plans for the specifics rather than starting from scratch, which puts us in a good place."

Nick queried whether we are actually in a good place and Ms Whately responded: "We are much better prepared than many other countries around the world because of the preparations that had already been made and the exercises that had already been carried out."

Again, Nick pointed out: "They spent three days going through this exercise, which showed holes all over the place and nothing was done by the Conservative government. Instead the austerity continued. How do you defend that, Minister?"

Ms Whately insisted she was unclear where that information was from and that really frustrated Nick, who had read it in the Sunday Telegraph the day before.

What followed got very fiery. Watch it at the top of the page.