Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary has argued that the Government should hold annual pandemic planning exercises in preparation for future viral outbreaks.
Jonathan Ashworth dubbed the plans the “germ games”. The planning exercises would be based on military drills in order to help prepare for another pandemic. He also argued that these plans should be checked by an independent body.
Mr Ashworth announced his plans in a speech to the IPPR think tank.
In the speech, Mr Ashworth attacked the Government’s handling of the coronavirus, calling it “unprepared, complacent and inept”. He also claimed that discussions around the threat of new diseases “rarely surfaced in Westminster” and “that has to change”.
He said: “Governments rightly invest in defence planning and ‘war games’. Practising for pandemics should be no different.
“Ministers should ‘germ game’ on an annual basis, to prepare themselves and the country for the next pandemic or infectious outbreak.
“Never again should we have ministers ignoring the science and learning on the job.”
He also attacked the public health spending record of the Conservative Party since it came to power in 2010. He claimed that this level of spending had led to a higher coronavirus death toll in the UK.
He said: “Years of cuts to public services and austerity left our health and care services lacking the capacity needed when disaster struck.”
“Covid hit a population with millions of people in poor health, in poor housing and with job and income insecurity,” he added.
“A healthier, more equal society would have weathered the storms better.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson responded to Mr Ashworth’s comments by saying: “Our response has always been informed by the latest advice from our scientists and, we have taken swift action when new evidence has emerged.”
They added: “We are already looking to our future preparedness, and through the new National Institute for Health Protection, we will supercharge our response to health threats, both now and in the future.”