An inquiry identifying failures around the UK Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic must be delivered within months to prepare for a second wave of the disease, Scotland’s former chief scientific adviser has said.
Professor Dame Anne Glover said it would be “inexcusable” for ministers to repeat “mistakes that have already been made” should there be a second spike of coronavirus cases this winter.
Her comments come as 27 medical and scientific experts signed a letter to The Guardian warning many more Britons may die if the UK Government is without solutions to “some of the structural problems that have made implementing an effective response so difficult”.
Prof Glover, who is now president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, told the PA news agency: “Given that second wave is likely to come at a time that is likely to coincide with seasonal influenza, and that would give us serious problems, we really need to understand what the failings have been in our apparent inability to be able to deal with this pandemic appropriately.”
She said the UK could be faced with “very many more needless deaths” during the winter without a “rapid and transparent” inquiry, looking at areas such as personal protective equipment (PPE) procurement and track and trace systems.
Prof Glover said: “Where failures have happened, and I think they have in each one of those things I’ve mentioned, then (we need to understand) why have the failures happened and how can we avoid those failures in the future.
“This inquiry needs to be delivering in a matter of months, not a matter of years, because the purpose of it is to ensure we do not make the same mistakes should we get a second wave of the virus.”
She added: “Nobody’s perfect and it is OK to make a mistake but it would be inexcusable to make the same mistake twice.”
Prof Glover, who served as Scotland’s chief scientific adviser from 2006 to 2011, also said she thinks the UK Government is easing lockdown restrictions too soon.
She added: “My take is that it is being relaxed for economic reasons, rather than for health reasons.
“An economy can always recover but a dead person can’t.”
Medics and scientists have called on the UK Government to “commit to a rapid, transparent, expert inquiry” to address any issues around the handling of the pandemic so far.
Their letter, published on Saturday and organised by the March for Change campaign group, was signed by former World Health Organisation director Professor Anthony Costello and former Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) member Professor Deenan Pillay.
A UK Government spokesman said: “At some point in the future there will be an opportunity for us to look back, to reflect and to learn some profound lessons.
“But at the moment, the most important thing to do is to focus on responding to the current situation.”