COVID-19: UK government’s response to pandemic cost thousands of lives, report finds

In the Liverpool City Region 4289 people have died within 28 days of recording a positive test result for COVID-19.

The first major report on the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that serious errors at the hands of the Government and scientific advisors led to “many thousands of deaths which could have been avoided”.

The inquiry by MPs has described the UK’s failure to do more to stop coronavirus spreading early in the pandemic as one of the worst ever public health failures.

Sign up to our LiverpoolWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The findings arrive in the long-awaited 151-page report from the Health and Social Care Committee and the Science and Technology Committee, which contain MPs from all parties.

COVID-19 deaths

According to the latest official figures, more than 137,000 people have died of coronavirus in the UK so far, with 120,405 of those in England and 19,443 of them across the North West.

Those figures relate to anyone who died within 28 days of a positive test result for COVID-19.

In the Liverpool City Region there have been 4289 deaths across the six local authorities, with 21 in the last week, according to data released on Monday, 11 October.

Of those, Liverpool has recorded 1312 deaths, Wirral 873, Sefton 860, St Helens 507, Knowsley 453 and Halton 284.

What the COVID-19 report found

Thousands of lives were lost due to serious errors and delays at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by both ministers and their scientific advisors, according to a high critical report by MPs.

The report found that it was a “serious early error” not to lockdown sooner, the decision to abandon testing for Covid in the community early “cost many lives”, and the failure to prioritise social care and discharge people from hospitals into care homes “led to many thousands of deaths”.

The report by the cross-party group said the vaccination programme was a success, describing the research, development and rollout as “one of the most effective initiatives in UK history”.

MPs concluded it was “astonishing” it took so long for Sage to say a full lockdown was needed and for the Government to implement one, adding they thought the evidence showed a lockdown was “inevitable”.

Other criticisms in the 151-page report were the “light-touch border controls” only on countries with high Covid rates, despite 33% of cases during the first wave were introduced from Spain and 29% from France. 

'A different approach was possible'

In a joint statement, Tory MPs Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt, who chair the committees, said: “The UK response has combined some big achievements with some big mistakes. It is vital to learn from both to ensure that we perform as best as we possibly can during the remainder of the pandemic and in the future.

“Our vaccine programme was boldly planned and effectively executed. Our test and trace programme took too long to become effective.

“The Government took seriously scientific advice but there should have been more challenge from all to the early UK consensus that delayed a more comprehensive lockdown when countries like South Korea showed a different approach was possible.

“In responding to an emergency, when much is unknown, it is impossible to get everything right.

“We record our gratitude to all those – NHS and care workers, scientists, officials in national and local government, workers in our public services and in private businesses and millions of volunteers – who responded to the challenge with dedication, compassion and hard work to help the whole nation at one of our darkest times.”

What the government said

A government spokesperson said lessons would be learned, which was why there would be a full public inquiry next year.

He added: "We have never shied away from taking quick and decisive action to save lives and protect our NHS, including introducing restrictions and lockdowns.

"Thanks to a collective national effort, we avoided NHS services becoming overwhelmed."

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said of the report: “This is a damning report by a cross-party group of MPs into the monumental errors made by ministers in responding to the pandemic.”

A Government spokesman said: “Throughout the pandemic we have been guided by scientific and medical experts and we never shied away from taking quick and decisive action to save lives and protect our NHS, including introducing restrictions and lockdowns.

“Thanks to a collective national effort, we avoided NHS services becoming overwhelmed and our phenomenal vaccination programme has built a wall of defence, with over 24.3 million infections prevented and more than 130,000 lives saved so far.

“As the Prime Minister has said, we are committed to learning lessons from the pandemic and have committed to holding a full public inquiry in spring.”

A version of this article originally appeared on