UK strategy to address pandemic threat ‘not properly implemented’

29th March 2020


Environment editor,
The Guardian


The UK’s biological security strategy, published in 2018 to address the threat of pandemics, was not properly implemented, according to a former government chief scientific adviser.
Prof Sir Ian Boyd, who advised the environment department for seven years until last August and was involved in writing the strategy, said a lack of resources was to blame. Other experts said there was a gap between pandemic planning and action, and that the strategy had stalled.

The UK has been rated as one of the most prepared nations in the world, and some experts have said the coronavirus outbreak would have overwhelmed any government. However, a 2019 parliamentary inquiry into biological security was postponed and then cancelled because MPs were focused on Brexit and then the December general election.

Boyd said the government was aware of many risks with low likelihoods but potentially very high impacts on the nation, such as pandemics, severe storms and power blackouts. But he said these were assessed independently from one another, underplaying the total risk, which itself was rising due to climate change, population growth and the globalisation of travel.

Looked at alone, a pandemic had appeared unlikely, he said. “As a result, getting sufficient resource just to write a decent biosecurity strategy was tough. Getting resource to properly underpin implementation of what it said was impossible.”

Read the full article at The Guardian