The Science and Technology Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee, which is made up of cross-party Members of Parliament, has said the UK’s preparation for a pandemic was far too focused on flu, while ministers waited too long to push through lockdown measures in early 2020.
In the wide-ranging study, MPs criticised the fact community testing was abandoned in March 2020 as a “seminal error”, said NHS test and trace was too slow and failed to have a big impact, and that thousands of people died in care homes partly due to a policy of discharging people from hospital without testing.
It is these mistakes that MPs have concluded in the 151-page report cost the lives of thousands of people across the country.
The UK’s national risk register, which was in place at the start of the pandemic, said “the likelihood of an emerging infectious disease spreading within the UK is assessed to be lower than that of a pandemic flu”. It also said only up to 100 people may die during any outbreak of an emerging infectious disease.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Mr Barclay, commented: “The decisions were taken on the evidence and the scientific advice at the time, they were taken to protect the NHS.
“The understanding of issues such as asymptomatic infection and how that spread the disease, we now know far more about that than we did in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
“I think a question for the inquiry will be what information did the Government have on something that was unprecedented?
“Were the decisions informed by the science at the time and do we now know different things about the pandemic to what we knew in February in 2020?
"And of course we’ve learnt a huge amount, but we did take decisions to move quickly, that is why the vaccine was deployed at pace, that was a success that the report recognises.”
In the North East, there has been a total of 7,409 Covid-related deaths (deaths that have Covid-19 written on the death certificate) registered up until September 24, 2021.
County Durham is the local authority area that has seen the most coronavirus-related deaths, with a total of 1,593.
Sunderland is second with 934 and Northumberland makes up the top three worst affected areas with 832.
Newcastle and Gateshead complete the top five hardest hit areas, with 579 and 552 deaths respectively.
Figures show that Hartlepool was the least affected area in the region for Covid-related deaths, with 290 registered up to September 24.
South Tyneside was seventh highest on the list for Covid-related deaths, having 516 registered.
Here is a full list of Covid-related deaths broken down by local authority area for the North East:
County Durham: 1,593
Newcastle upon Tyne: 579
South Tyneside: 516
North Tyneside: 505
Redcar and Cleveland: 365