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Mon, 13 July 2020

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Coronavirus: Senior Tory MP backs medics’ call for review of UK's readiness for second wave

Coronavirus: Senior Tory MP backs medics’ call for review of UK's readiness for second wave

Bernard Jenkin has offered to lead the review in his role as chair of the Liason Committee

3 min read

A senior Conservative MP has supported calls from medics for a review into how ready the UK is to tackle a second wave of coronavirus infections.

Sir Bernard Jenkin, chair of the influential Commons Liason Committee, has offered to lead a "lessons learned" review into the coronavirus response after leaders of Britain's medical royal colleges told Boris Johnson a "rapid review" of the response to the first wave of infections was needed.

In a joint letter published in the British Medical Journal, the group warned there had already been "flare-ups" of the virus in a number of other countries, and said there was a "real risk" of a second wave hitting the country.

Among their recommendations, the medics said there should be more focus on ensuring there were adequate supplies of keys goods and services, ensuring the protection of vulnerable people, and taking further measures to protect BAME people from the disproportionate impact of the virus.

The call came after the Prime Minister announced a major relaxation of the lockdown rules in England from 4 July, including reopening swathes of the economy and allowing further social contact between households.

But responding to the letter from the leading medics, Number 10 dismissed suggestions they would implement a review.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the Government had already taken "unprecendented action" to protect the country from the virus, including keeping the emergency Nightingale hospitals on standby to tackle a further surge in cases.

However, Sir Bernard said Mr Johnson should establish a "cross-party" exercise "as soon as possible" to conduct the probe.

"It is essential that the UK is prepared for a second wave of coronavirus later this year. We do not want another Chilcot-type inquiry at this stage, but medics are right to call for a swift cross-party 'lessons learned' exercise to be completed by October," he said.

"This would not only contribute to UK's readiness for a new Covid peak but would also strengthen public confidence in the government's readiness.

"It should be led by Parliament and commissioned as soon as possible by the government."

And the Tory grandee said the liason committee, made up of the chairs of other select committees from various parties, could lead the "vital" effort.

"The Commons Liaison Committee could be a vehicle for this, or the government could ask Parliament to follow the model of the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards, which was set up after the banking crash and which will still be able to draw on cross-party expertise from Lords and Commons," he added.

"It is vital that we work together and make the most of the opportunity to learn from recent experience, before a possible new wave of Covid."

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