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Ex-prime minister tells COVID inquiry that UK erred in focusing an excessive amount of on menace of a flu pandemic

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LONDON — Britain made a mistake in focusing an excessive amount of on preparations for a flu pandemic relatively than contemplating different forms of pandemic within the years earlier than the COVID-19 outbreak, former Prime Minister David Cameron advised a public inquiry Monday.

Cameron, who led Britain’s Conservative authorities from 2010 to 2016, was the primary politician to be questioned by the wide-ranging inquiry into the U.Ok.’s preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic, how the federal government responded and what classes will be discovered for the long run.

The U.Ok. had one of many highest COVID-19 loss of life tolls in Europe, with the virus recorded as a reason behind loss of life for nearly 227,000 folks.

Giving proof beneath oath, Cameron mentioned that in his time in workplace, officers had been too narrowly centered on the risks of an influenza pandemic. Not sufficient questions had been requested about the potential of an outbreak of different extremely infectious respiratory illnesses, he mentioned.

“A lot time was spent on a pandemic influenza and that was seen as the best hazard,” Cameron mentioned.

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He mentioned his authorities did have a look at different pandemics, together with MERS and SARS. However he added: “I believe the failing was to not ask extra questions on asymptomatic transmission, extremely infectious … what turned out to be the pandemic we had.”

He mentioned many international locations had been “in the identical boat of not realizing what was coming,” however he argued that the U.Ok. did higher than many to “scan the horizon, to attempt to plan” for a pandemic.

Cameron additionally rejected accusations that austerity measures beneath his management that reduce authorities spending on public providers left the U.Ok.’s Nationwide Well being Service rather more weak to the pandemic.

Earlier, the British Medical Affiliation, the medical doctors’ union, argued that Cameron’s austerity insurance policies led to years of harm to public health care and a “failure to prioritize the nation’s well being.”

“The U.Ok. was severely on the again foot when COVID took maintain, and this proved disastrous,” mentioned Philip Banfield, chair of council on the union.

The official inquiry, led by a retired decide, is ready to take three years to finish. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who led the U.Ok. in the course of the pandemic, agreed in late 2021 to carry the probe after heavy strain from bereaved households.

Many different senior politicians are anticipated to be known as to face questions. On Wednesday Jeremy Hunt, the present Treasury chief and former well being secretary, and deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden are on account of testify.

The pandemic and the way Britain’s authorities dealt with it’s a matter that’s once more dominating headlines after lawmakers issued a scathing report final week concluding that Johnson intentionally misled Parliament over lockdown-flouting employees events at his workplace.

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