Officials in 2016 warned need for PPE stockpiles if coronavirus hit UK

Officials in 2016 warned need for PPE stockpiles if coronavirus hit UK

October 8, 2021

Health chiefs warned of need for PPE stockpiles, a contract tracing system and foreign traveller screening if a coronavirus hit Britain FOUR YEARS AGO, report shows

  • A planning exercise in February 2016 identified failings in the planned response
  • This was over Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) in February 2016
  • In the imagined scenario there were no known treatments or vaccines for MERS
  • Like Covid, it could spread asymptomatically and cause potentially fatal illness

Senior health officials warned about the need for PPE stockpiles, a contact tracing system and foreign traveller screening if a coronavirus hit the UK four years ago.

A planning exercise in February 2016 identified failings in the Government’s planned response if cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) spread across London and Birmingham in a ‘large scale outbreak’, it has emerged.

In the imagined scenario there were no known treatments or vaccines for MERS and, like Covid-19, it could spread asymptomatically and cause potentially fatal respiratory illness.

‘Exercise Alice’ highlighted the need for contact-tracing and health officials suggested ‘a web-based tool’ with ‘a live database of contacts’, the Guardian reported.

Former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies (pictured) commissioned the report which was released under freedom of information laws

High levels of PPE were deemed to be ‘of crucial importance for frontline staff’ and ‘pandemic stockpiles were suggested as a means to ensure sufficient quantities were available’.

The 23-page report also considered the effect of foreign travel and advised ‘port of entry screening’ as well as ‘an options plan using extant evidence and cost benefits for quarantine versus self-isolation for a range of contact types, including symptomatic, asymptomatic and high risk groups’.

A planning exercise in February 2016 identified failings in the Government’s planned response if cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS-CoV) spread across London and Birmingham in a ‘large scale outbreak’, it has emerged (file photo)

Former chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies commissioned the report which was released under freedom of information laws.

Officials from NHS England, the Department of Health, Public Health England and from across the devolved administrations were also involved in the exercise.

Ministers have previously said that planning for a pandemic had focused more on flu than respiratory diseases such as coronavirus.

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