The Government's failure to set up adequate contract tracing meant that COVID-19 could never have been properly suppressed in the UK, public health expert Professor Anthony Costello has claimed in the third session of Keep Our NHS Public's People's Covid Inquiry.
Speaking at the session on Wednesday 24 March titled, 'Did the Government adopt the right public health strategy' he pointed out all countries that had attempted to suppress the virus had been successful. A video of the session can now be watched on YouTube.
“Suppression has worked in all the countries that have tried it or attempted it, we never did that,” said the former director at the WHO and current member of Independent SAGE.
The People's Covid Inquiry panel explored the feasibility of a Zero Covid strategy for the UK at the latest session, by asking witnesses about the strategy that had been adopted by the Government over the past year and considering what could have been done differently.
Professor Costello went on to echo points raised in the last People's Covid Inquiry session, about the problems caused by separating symptom reporting and primary care: "If you look at initially setting up separate testing, separate tracing and a 111 system which didn’t have data linked into primary care, that meant that people were being told they had a potentially fatal disease and a GP was not being told and they were not being linked together."
Failure to use the 750,000 volunteers who signed up at the beginning of the pandemic also came under fire. Janet Harris of Sheffield Community Contact Tracing Group was the final witness to speak and reported on the findings of a group of volunteer contract tracers she set up last spring, made up of retired former NHS staff.
"We were not allowed to do contact tracing," she told the panel and explained they had provided a service where they checked in on people who had been told to isolate, explained the reasons for isolation and helped them access food and medicine deliveries.
Lack of adequate financial support had led to the inability of many to isolate she said, a view that was echoed by witness Rehana Azam National Secretary of GMB Union.
She told the Inquiry: "We need the government to step in fast to shore up jobs and underwrite wages because they find the money for track and trace, billions were wasted - it's a choice."
In contrast to this, Professor Michael Baker a public health expert from New Zealand told the Inquiry no plan other than virus elimination had ever been considered in New Zealand.
The panel remains the same throughout the Inquiry and consists of chair Michael Mansfield QC, Professor Neena Modi, Dr Tolullah Oni, Dr Jacky Davis, and Lorna Hackett Barrister, Counsel to the Inquiry.
Time for an Inquiry
Renewed calls for an Inquiry into the COVID-19 pandemic prompted chair Michael Mansfield to explain the aims of the People's Covid Inquiry.
He pointed out that a public inquiry run by the Government would take a year or two to start and potentially up to six years for any outcomes to be announced.
"This is the only forum. It is the only one and there isn't a likelihood of another one," he told attendees.
"[The questions the Inquiry are asking] are for the public, for the Government and for a future inquiry further down the line."
LISTEN NOW: Michael Mansfield talks about the People’s Covid Inquiry being the only initiative happening right now on the Byline Times podcast