Brexit news: EU exit planning hit Government preparation for Covid pandemic – expert | Politics | News | #government | #hacking | #cyberattack

A key authority in recovering from disasters, Professor Lucy Easthope said that Brexit led to a “slow erosion of priorities” for the UK Government. She argued that this meant by January 2020, planners were feeling “stymied” in their efforts to ensure the UK was prepared for an event like the Covid pandemic.

Professor Easthope has worked on the response to major incidents including the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks, the Grenfell Tower fire and the Covid pandemic.

She has criticised the UK’s response to the pandemic, arguing that it was “too late” and may have been hindered significantly by Britain’s exit from the EU.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, she said that disaster experts were told: “we couldn’t plan for Brexit and a pandemic at the same time, it was too ridiculous to think of both happening at the same time.”

When asked who made this statement, she said it came as a result of a “slow erosion of priorities”.

This included meetings on pandemic planning being delayed or cancelled altogether – leaving the UK ill-equipped to respond when reports first emerged of a new virus in Wuhan.

Professor Easthope said that by January 2020, “multiple meetings at ministerial department level had been postponed”.

She added that the UK entered the pandemic with a “very depleted” health and social care system, leaving disaster planners “very very nervous”.

She said: “As disaster planners, I think we started to feel very stymied in our ability to go into it with our best foot forward.

“I think that’s the sort of thing where that will be incredibly painful for the families to sit through.”

The professor stated that the Government had attempted to ease the frustration of families suffering under the pandemic by claiming it was “unpredicted and unplanned for”.

However, she said that when meeting families more recently, the pain had “almost reopened all over again at the idea that there were people who had worked very hard” to warn the government about the approaching crisis.

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She said an inquiry would “uncover how much work was done… and how easy it is to erode that, particularly during times of austerity”.

A Government spokesman said: “The Covid pandemic was unprecedented and challenged health systems around the world. Throughout the pandemic we have been guided by scientific and medical experts, and our main priority was to protect the NHS and save lives.

“As the National Audit Office Report on Covid-19 Pandemic Preparedness recognised, the government benefited from EU exit planning as well as the challenge of balancing multiple priorities.

“Thanks to our national efforts, we are now one of the most open countries in the world, and our focus is on building back better from the pandemic and delivering Brexit opportunities that benefit the British public.”

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