David Cameron has admitted his government made a “mistake” by focusing on an influenza pandemic and not looking at other types of viruses as became the first former Prime Minister to be questioned by the Covid Inquiry.
Giving evidence under oath on Monday morning, Mr Cameron, who was Prime Minister between 2010 and 2016, accepted that “many consequences” followed from the focus on pandemic flu rather than coronaviruses.
Mr Cameron also admitted that there were “failures to follow through” on findings during an Exercise Alice modelling operation in response to the Mers virus outbreak in February 2016.
He dismissed claims austerity contributed to pandemic failings and said that the focus on a flu pandemic meant “questions weren’t asked” about measures such as school closures and that there was a “danger of groupthink” in relation to influenza.
The former Conservative leader is the first of several senior figures to give evidence this week and answering questions from Kate Blackwell KC he said the time spent on focusing on flu during contingency planning was “the thing I keep coming back to” when considering the “horrors of the Covid pandemic”.
“Much more time was spent on pandemic flu and the dangers of pandemic flu rather than on potential pandemics of other more respiratory diseases like Covid turned out to be,” he said.
“And you know, I think this is so important because so many consequences follow from that. And I’ve been sort of wrestling with … I think the architecture (to deal with large-scale emergencies) was good – the National Security Council, the National Security Adviser, the risk register and also this new security risk assessment, which was perhaps a bit more dynamic.
“But that’s where I keep coming back to is, so much time was spent on a pandemic influenza and that was seen as the greatest danger – and we had very bad years for flu so it is a big danger … But why wasn’t more time and more questions asked about what turned out to be the pandemic that we faced?
“It’s very hard to answer why that’s the case. And I’m sure this public inquiry is going to spend a lot of time on that.”
‘Mistake was made not looking at range of pandemics’
Mr Cameron was being questioned by barrister Kate Blackwell KC rath…..