Covid-19 Inquiry: Another pandemic 'an inevitability', medical expert warns

Another novel pandemic should be seen as an 'inevitability', a health expert warned the Covid-19 Inquiry Credit: PA

Another novel health pandemic is "an inevitability", an infectious diseases expert has told the UK's Covid-19 Inquiry.

Speaking on Thursday, Professor David Alexander said he was "slightly surprised" when an integrated review of risks in 2021 identified another UK pandemic as a "realistic probability".

Rather, Professor Alexander warned, the government should consider another health crisis to be an "inevitability [given] pandemics' frequent occurrence throughout human history".

Since Tuesday, the Inquiry has been hearing from experts to assess whether the UK could have been more prepared for the Covid-19 outbreak.

Baroness Heather Hallett also heard from Bruce Mann, a senior civil servant, who said the government's planning for a No-Deal Brexit had the "inevitable" consequence of impacting planning for a pandemic.

"Let me be clear, this is not a political but an administration point," said Bruce Mann, who has previously served as Director of Civil Contingencies in the Cabinet Office.

"Yes of course it was absolutely important to prepare for our exit from the EU. The point we are making is there should also have been the capacity for preparedness planning in other fields."

Baroness Heather Hallett is chairing the UK public inquiry into the Covid-19 pandemic Credit: UK Covid-19 Inquiry/PA

Module 1 of the Inquiry is currently scrutinising the UK's preparations for a pandemic, including whether officials were too focused on the idea that the next pandemic would be flu.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt and former prime minister David Cameron will be among those giving evidence next week, with England's chief medical officer Sir Chris Whitty and former chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance also on the witness list from Monday, June 19.

They will be joined by former chancellor George Osborne.

Concerns have been raised by a solicitor representing bereaved families that politicians will be questioned within a limited time period, allowing them to "escape accountability".

Elkan Abrahamson, who is representing Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice UK, said: "While we understand the need to progress the inquiry swiftly, the length of time given to crucial testimony from senior government ministers is alarming.

"Politicians are well equipped to fend off critical questions and it takes time to pierce their armour. We have grave concerns that the time limits will allow the slick politicians to escape accountability for their actions which had such tragic consequences."

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