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Ex-Chief Medical Officer 'never asked officially' to prepare for Covid-style pandemic

30 May 2021, 12:50

By Seán Hickey

England's former CMO confirms that Public Health England 'did not prepare' for a Covid-style pandemic, but a plan for flu 'had quite a bit of read across' to the current situation.

The comments from Professor Dame Sally Davies came after revelations made from the Prime Minister's former aide Dominic Cummings that the UK was completely unprepared for the pandemic.

"There was a plan for pandemic flu that was a good plan and it had quite a bit of read across to the present Covid situation" the former Chief Medical Officer told Tom Swarbrick.

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While there were some aspects of Exercise Cygnus that could be adopted, Dame Sally Davies told Tom that "we did not prepare for a SARS pandemic," which is more similar to Covid-19 than flu.

Tom wondered if Professor Davies "suggested to Public Health England that that was exactly what you should prepare for" but she told him this was not the case.

"I never asked officially," she confirmed.

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"I asked unofficially a couple of experts 'should we' because clearly as Chief Medical Officer or as ministers we have to be advised by experts."

"All of that will be addressed in an inquiry," she told Tom.

Tom pushed the former Chief Medical Officer, pointing out that Exercise Cygnus "forewarned about a crisis in care homes" among other things. He wondered "what happened to that document and those recommendations afterwards?"

"I think we'll leave that for an inquiry to go all the way through that" Dame Sally concluded.