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LONDON (Reuters) – The slowness with which England declared a first lockdown in the face of the coronavirus health crisis last year was a serious mistake stemming from the failure to challenge collective thinking, MPs said British in a report released on Tuesday.

They also underlined in the 150-page document that shortcomings in the detection of cases of contamination and in the follow-up of contact cases had favored the epidemic.

To draw up their report on the lessons to be learned from the coronavirus epidemic, the deputies of the parliamentary health and science committees conducted hours of interviews with more than 50 witnesses, including government advisers.

Reuters had uncovered in several surveys last year the UK government’s shortcomings in its response to the health crisis, including its slowness in imposing containment measures, a testing deficit and errors that allowed the epidemic to spread in retirement homes.

These various points are highlighted in the parliamentary report, which deplores a “political approach to fatalism” which has favored the management of COVID-19 contamination rather than measures to curb the epidemic from its early stages. MEPs see this approach as a “serious mistake”.

“Our screening and follow-up program took too long to become effective. The government took the scientific advice seriously but there should have been more questioning by all of the initial consensus in the UK which pushed back the ‘establishment of strict containment,’ wrote Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark, who chair the committees that made the report.

Noting that the vaccination campaign was perfectly planned and implemented, MEPs warn, however, that lessons must be learned to avoid repeating the same mistakes. They recommend more preparations to deal with a possible health crisis.

“The UK response, with the notable exception of vaccine development and deployment, has been largely based on reaction and not anticipation,” says the report.

(Reportage by Alistair Smout; French version by Jean Terzian)

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