David Davis: UK guilty of 'really low calibre of pandemic planning'

15 November 2020, 11:11 | Updated: 15 November 2020, 11:23

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Consecutive UK governments have been guilty of a "really low calibre of pandemic planning", former Brexit secretary David Davis has told LBC.

Mr Davis was asked about the comments of former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davis who said she was told by government officials that a coronavirus from Asia "would never travel this far".

The health expert said she asked others whether Britain should rehearse for an outbreak of coronavirus in 2015, but was told by Public Health England (PHE) officials that such a virus would "never reach the UK in large numbers".

Asked by Tom Swarbrick for Swarbrick on Sunday what he thought about her comments, Mr Davis said: "What it tells you, bluntly, is the really low calibre of planning that was done for any pandemic, not just coronavirus.

"This dates back a decade. Some of it you can see in the poor quality of PHE administration and decisions. They wrecked the testing project, they were the ones who put it in such a bad place at the beginning.

"But there have been problems like this right across Whitehall dating back years."

Read more: Expert urges against 'flip-flopping' between pandemic and economy

Read more: Anti-vax posts on social media should be 'stamped out', Labour says

David Davis told LBC the UK was ill-prepared for any pandemic
David Davis told LBC the UK was ill-prepared for any pandemic. Picture: LBC

Mr Davis questioned why his previous suggestion of a full cabinet was not introduced after Exercise Cygnus, the UK's last major pandemic planning operation.

He said ignoring this recommendation demonstrated how bad the UK was at handling a wide-scale outbreak.

That exercise predicted up to 450,000 deaths from an epidemic in Britain.

The former Brexit secretary said governments have since been "distracted" by other issues.

He added: "We were supposed to be one of the best-prepared countries in the world. We were nothing like the best-prepared country in the world."

It comes after the UK recorded a further 26,860 new coronavirus cases on Saturday and 462 deaths

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