The final session of the People's Covid Inquiry heard that the Government's failure to control infection rates of COVID-19 had led to repeated lockdowns.
Rather than getting an effective track and trace system to ensure that no lockdowns were necessary after the first, the Government had instead tried 'to tech our way out of this' pandemic said Dr Deepti Gurdasani, senior lecturer in machine learning at Queen Mary University London.
Poor or wrong forms of technology were cited as potential solutions by the Government throughout the pandemic she argued, citing antibody tests announced in April 2020, Dyson's contract to develop new ventilators, production of inadequate PPE, failure of the test and trace system and inaccurate lateral flow tests as examples of this. She said: "Not only have we relied on technology we have relied on technology without any consultation with experts in this field.
If you control infection well you don't need lockdowns, but our Government never managed to do that because there was a huge amount of focus on technology. It has been really, really poorly thought out."
It was not time to lose hope however, as she explained: "It is never too late to return to classic public health measures," and that the Government could implement them now.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council recognised the fact the Government didn't have a strong enough handle on the pandemic as far back as February 2020. They decided to independently move to a state of civic emergency which saw care homes closed to new admissions and offered free PPE, as well as additional training to deal with the effects of the pandemic. The council also arranged testing and tracing measures (the first of its kind) something that was later adopted more widely across London.
Stephen Cowan Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council said: "I think if local government had had the power to impose a lockdown in London [in mid-December 2020] then I don't think we'd have had the second wave anywhere near as bad, and we'd have saved a lot of lives."
Also speaking at the session were Jean Adamson, Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice, and Michael Bimmler, public law barrister. A witness statement from Matt Weston, MP for Leamington Spa was read out by counsel to the Inquiry, barrister Lorna Hackett.
The panel for the People's Covid Inquiry includes chair Michael Mansfield QC, Professor Neena Modi, Dr Tolullah Oni and Keep Our NHS Public's Dr Jacky Davis.
Catching up with the People's Covid Inquiry
While the People's Covid Inquiry sessions have now finished and we are awaiting the report, you can catch up on all nine sessions on YouTube to find out more about the evidence submitted to the Inquiry.
You can also keep up to date with the People's Covid Inquiry on its website, and by signing up to the Keep Our NHS Public newsletter.