As of this morning – Tuesday May 19 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 246,406 with 34,796 deaths.
A committee of MPs has concluded that the UK's testing capacity during the novel coronavirus outbreak 'has been inadequate for most of the pandemic so far'.
In a 19-page letter to the Prime Minister, the Science and Technology Committee details ten key lessons the UK government should learn from its experience of handling the first months of the pandemic.
It found that one of the most significant problems in the government's handling of the pandemic has been the lack testing capacity to determine whether people have COVID-19.
According to the letter, 'very low numbers of people were being tested well into March, with the number of tests actually falling at a critical time to 1,215 on 10 March. The Committee has found a consensus embracing a broad range of experts from within the UK and overseas – including among the government’s scientific advisers – that testing capacity has been too low'.
It also noted that it was 'identifiable from the beginning of the pandemic that testing capacity would be crucial' and that, 'despite several requests by letter, email and telephone, PHE has not produced to the Committee the basis for the pivotal decision to choose an initially centralised, smaller scale approach to testing over other leading international approaches'.
The Committee stressed that the government should 'learn and apply the lessons from the slowness of the provision of testing capacity and take every opportunity to build capacity in advance of need to surge capacity explosively rather than follow a more gradual ramping up approach'.
Elsewhere, it also found that strategies to deal with asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 'have not been clear', that 'transparency around scientific advice has not always been as clear as it should have been', and 'significant unexplained differences in the death rates in the UK of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups compared to the population as a whole'.
On the plus side, the Committee concluded that the government has 'sought to obtain and act on good scientific advice', and that 'the role of isolation in combination with testing and tracing
has been important in countries which have, so far, tackled the pandemic effectively'.
“The government has drawn extensively on scientific advice during the pandemic and should continue to do so,” commented chair of the Committee, Rt Hon Greg Clark MP.
“The government should follow the best traditions of science in being transparent about the evidence and advice on which it makes decisions, and by being willing to continually learn from evidence and experience and not being afraid to adjust its approach in response.
“Greater transparency around scientific advice; putting capacity in place in advance of need, such as in testing and vaccines; collecting more data earlier and learning from other countries’ approaches are some of the early lessons of this pandemic that are relevant to further decisions that will need to be taken during the weeks and months ahead.”
WASH YOUR HANDS:
Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
MAINTAIN SOCIAL DISTANCING:
Maintain at least two metres (six feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.