Dame Jenny Harries suggests the UK might act more like Sweden and adopt a voluntary approach to social distancing when the next pandemic hits
- UKHSA chief says people can be trusted to take their own action to limit contact
Dame Jenny Harries has suggested the UK will act more like Sweden and adopt a voluntary approach to social distancing when the next pandemic hits.
The chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency said in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph that keeping people informed on any future outbreaks will help build trust with the public and reduce the likelihood of imposing strict measures.
She explained that people can be trusted to make sensible decisions about limiting contact on their own, with data showing that later on in the Covid pandemic, footfall figures reduced even when there were no lockdowns in place.
The 64-year-old told the Sunday Telegraph: ‘What we saw with omicron and later waves of the pandemic, and even now, is that people are good at watching the data and they will take action themselves.
‘You can see it in footfall going down. People actually start to manage their own socialisation, and the waves flatten off and come down.’
Dame Jenny Harries (pictured) has suggested t he UK will act more like Sweden and adopt a voluntary approach to social distancing when the next pandemic hits
Harries said that keeping people informed on any future outbreaks will help build trust with the public and reduce the likelihood of imposing strict measures
Confirmed Covid-19 cases in the UK and Sweden between May 2020 and November 2021
Harries said that she doesn’t buy into the ‘groupthink agenda’, that is the idea that the UK’s mamagement of the pandemic was unchallenged by individuals.
She added that the UK’s pandemic plan was ‘pretty advanced’ compared to many other parts of the world that ‘had no plans at all’.
READ MORE: The next pandemic is already coming and it could kill millions more than Covid. We need to prepare for it now… writes experts KATE BINGHAM and TIM HAMES
In Sweden, logged one of the lowest pandemic death tolls in Europe despite its refusal to impose lockdowns, according to World Health Organization estimates.
The Scandinavian nation became an international outcast when it defied scientific advice and chose not to shut down in 2020 — instead relying on people’s common sense and light social restrictions.
Of the 194 countries looked at by the UN health agency, Sweden’s pandemic death rate was 66 per 100,000 — well below the average of 90.
It also puts Sweden below most other major European nations that locked down several times, such as Italy (133), Spain (111), Britain (109), Portugal (100), the Netherlands (85), Belgium (77) and Germany (73).
Harries was also asked about South Korea, who responded to the pandemic by closing its borders to some parts of China, implementing rapid testing and isolating any infected people.
This strategy, which is seen as a success story in dealing with the Covid outbreak, meant that it avoided strict public lockdowns like those seen elsewhere across Europe.
Harries said: ‘I think this is where we need to be really careful because the culture in South Korea was very different
‘In South Korea, they have had a different experience…communities, individuals and governments build on the experience and the culture that they have.’
Harries recently opened a new super-lab at Porton Down where experts are working on a high-security project to develop prototype vaccines to tackle the world’s next deadly pandemic within 100 days of it breaking out.
The ambitious target would smash the 362 days it took to develop a Covid jab, potentially stopping crippling lockdowns in future.
Harries recently opened a new super-lab at Porton Down where experts are working on a high-security project to develop prototype vaccines to tackle the world’s next deadly pandemic within 100 days of it breaking out
British scientists at the facility are currently leading the charge to create a vaccine for world’s next deadly virus when it hits
Experts working on the high-security project at Porton Down, the top-secret government laboratory, to develop prototype vaccines to tackle ‘Disease X’ when it hits
Scientists agree it is only a matter of time until the next major pandemic which will be caused by the ominously dubbed ‘Disease X’ and has been put among the biggest threats to life this year.
British scientists at the facility are currently leading the charge to create a vaccine for world’s next deadly virus when it hits.
It is geared to work with the world’s deadliest live viruses, with more specialist ‘high-containment’ labs than anywhere in Europe.
Working alongside academics and industry, it is the only site in the UK equipped to create a vaccine from start to finish.
At the time of its launch Harries said Britain is already primed to launch a ‘very slick and rapid response’ to the next global threat.
Speaking at the Vaccine Development and Evaluation Centre earlier this year, she said it signalled a ‘step change in terms of pandemic response’, adding: ‘The risk [of another pandemic] is growing.
‘The 100-day mission is to identify a pathogen of pandemic potential and within 100 days, you have vaccines to try and manage that.
‘This is shifting from being super ready to respond to actually trying to stop [pandemics] happening.
‘For previous vaccines it would have been five to ten years. For Covid it was 362 days, so to get to 100 days is really stretching the ambition. But if we’re going to prevent pandemics then that’s exactly what we need to do.’
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