UK: First Preliminary Hearing Into COVID Response Begins

Photo: The Guardian

The Facts

  • On Tuesday, former Court of Appeal judge and head of the UK's COVID inquiry Baroness Heather Hallett pledged that bereaved families would be at the "heart" of an investigation into the efficacy of the government's response to the crisis. The inquiry will examine resilience and preparedness, decisions by the PM and cabinet, and the impact of COVID on health care systems.

  • Hallett emphasized the grief felt by millions of Brits as a result of COVID: "There's one word that sums up the pandemic for so many ... 'loss.'" Her comments preceded a minute's silence observed for those who died due to the virus.

The Spin

Establishment-critical narrative

Despite COVID being a great opportunity to resolve issues around the UK's readiness for and resilience to pandemics, it hasn't worked out like that. There is no way Britain has the systems in place to respond effectively to another outbreak and, considering the recent sale of the government-funded Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, it's even possible that the nation is regressing by dismantling long-term preparedness structures. Dangerous gaps exist and aren't being properly addressed.

Pro-establishment narrative

Pristine visions of pandemic preparedness make sense in the abstract, but they're completely rinsed of the reality of fickle politics, messy psychology, and dirty vested interests. Readiness and capacity rest on near intangible qualities like political leadership and will, and public appetite for action. There is a risk of learning too much from COVID, especially if the next virus is more lethal, transmitted differently, or otherwise distinct.

Nerd narrative

There is a 55% chance that the microorganism that causes the next pandemic will be from the orthomyxoviridae virus family, according to the Metaculus prediction community.

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