I am very grateful for the question that my MP, Caroline Lucas recently asked the Government. I certainly respect the honest answer from Jo Churchill but it is extremely disturbing. Jo’s full name is Johanna Peta Churchill and she is the MP for Bury St Edmunds. The question and answer are shown below and the answer clearly discloses the incompetency of our Government. Their inability to collect examples of exercises that their Departments carry out is very disappointing and indeed one could assume that perhaps they don’t have many exercises. The other concern is the speed with which they collect the responses from exercises that they do claim to gather. If an exercise is carried out in 2016, the fact that they did not gather the response until 2020 which is 4 years later and not until COVID had already begun is deeply concerning. Is there any point in them holding these exercises? This is where the question and answer can be seen online.
Caroline Lucas: To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will list the names of each Government pandemic exercise held from 2010 onwards; what the (a) remit and (b) purpose was of Exercise Alice in 2016; when details of (i) Exercise Alice and (ii) all other exercises were provided to key advisory committees; and if he will publish a report to Parliament on the relevance of each exercise to the covid-19 pandemic.
Jo Churchill: The Department does not hold details relating to all exercises conducted across Government. However, the Department has led on two pandemic preparedness exercises. The most recent exercise to test preparedness for an influenza pandemic was Exercise Cygnus in 2016. The report from Exercise Cygnus was published in October 2020 alongside information on how elements of our pandemic influenza plans were used in response to COVID-19. This report is available at this link
In February 2020, Exercise Nimbus rehearsed Ministerial-level decision-making in relation to the United Kingdom’s pandemic preparedness and response within the context of what was known at that point about COVID-19. We are unable to provide further information on this exercise as it relates to the formulation or development of Government policy.
Exercise Alice was held in February 2016 to test health system capabilities and protocols in the event of a larger outbreak, below pandemic level, of a high consequence infectious disease. We are unable to provide further information on this exercise as publication at the current time would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.
Reports of all such exercises are shared with attendees, officials and advisory committees as appropriate following the completion of the exercises. Working closely with the recently established UK Health Security Agency, partners across the health system and with wider Government, the Department is committed to using the lessons from COVID-19 to continue to ensure that future exercises support the UK’s preparedness for all types of health protection threats.