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

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

David Davis: UK was 'nothing like the best-prepared country in the world' for a pandemic

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

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

More Tom Swarbrick

See more More Tom Swarbrick

Exclusive
UK should prepare for 'something close to war', Nato's deputy tells LBC, amid warning members have 'neglected defence'

UK should prepare for 'something close to war', Nato's Deputy General tells LBC, as he warns Russia 'cannot be trusted'

Emma Webber (left) speaking to LBC

Mother of Nottingham attack victim Barnaby Webber blasts police ‘mistruths’ after force is put in special measures

Lord Harrington said there should be a cap on the number of asylum seekers the UK takes.

Former refugees minister Lord Harrington calls for a cap on the number of asylum seekers the UK takes

Mel Stride has backed the PM

Rishi Sunak has 'absolutely not' betrayed nation over Rwanda plan, insists minister after Braverman's attack on PM

Tom and caller

'Our family is there': Mother shares heartbreaking experience of being a British Jew during Israel-Hamas conflict

The ban will be brought into effect in months

'Children should be in the classroom to learn': Gillian Keegan orders 'blanket ban' of mobile phones in schools

Exclusive
Tributes have been paid to Elianne after she was stabbed to death in Croydon

Fellow pupil of schoolgirl stabbed to death in Croydon describes heartbreaking moment students were told of her killing

Scotland's first safe drug consumption space set to be openned

'Isn't this just decriminalising heroin?': Tom Swarbrick questions Labour MSP over first safe drug consumption room

The education secretary discusses educational reforms with Tom Swarbrick

Shadow education secretary says 'Building Schools for the Future Programme' would have prevented Raac crisis

Tom Swabrick

'Is it not completely mental?': Tom Swarbrick astonished as schools shut due to crumble-risk concrete before new term

Exam results

Equation sheets given to GCSE cohort in attempt lessen reduced grade inflation blow, schools minister says

Crime commentator on Adam Provan

Internal review of rapist ex-Met officer is the equivalent of 'marking your own homework', says crime commentator

Education Secretary discuss new Eton free schools on LBC

‘Bailed out by Eton’: Education Secretary discusses new free schools with Tom Swarbrick

Lucy Letby: We have to know what went so 'catastrophically wrong' says Tom Swarbrick

Lucy Letby: We have to know what went so 'catastrophically wrong' says Tom Swarbrick

Exclusive
Lord Edward Garnier has called for a public inquiry into Andrew Malkinson's case

Top lawyer blasts Andrew Malkinson rape case as the 'worst miscarriage of justice of the 21st century'

Suella Barge

Suella Braverman can't be blamed for housing migrants on barge with Legionella, ConservativeHome editor says