‘Inconsistent and unclear’ UK Covid alert system ‘costing lives’, report says
The National Preparedness Commission says conflicting Covid advice has led to a lack of trust among the public and consequent lack of compliance.
The current UK Covid alert system is ‘inconsistent, unclear, and costing lives’, according to a new report.
The National Preparedness Commission (NPC) said the five-tier system in place was “close to meaningless” because tiers were not linked to specific actions, such as the rule of six or wearing a mask in shops.
Under the current system, each level is associated with an increased number of coronavirus cases and related stress on the healthcare system – but does not prescribe corresponding restrictions or advice for the public based on those levels.
The organisation, comprised of more than 40 experts with backgrounds in policing, defence, science and industry, said Covid advice seemed politically driven and lacking a scientific basis – leading to a lack of compliance among the public.
Its authors are now calling for more transparent decision-making, enforcement of rules, clearer expectations of the public, and standardisation at a national level.
Co-author of the report Dr Carina Fearnley, of the University College London (UCL) Warning Research Centre, said: “Successful alert level systems provide a framework to help people understand what is happening in a crisis and how they should respond as its severity ramps up or down.
“They save lives by supporting people to prepare for, and navigate through, a crisis and fostering a collective sense of responsibility. Without a robust alert level system at the heart of our country’s pandemic response, people are being bombarded with a stream of ever-changing advice that is reactive, inconsistent and unclear. There is no doubt this is costing lives.
“In the UK, Government advice on Covid-19 is increasingly seen as politically driven, rather than representing the best available information from trusted, expert sources, supported by decisive leadership from politicians. Conflicting messages have led to confusion and an increasing sense of ‘them and us’, which we know reduces compliance.”
Lord Toby Harris, chairman of the NPC, said the UK was at a “critical point” in the pandemic where non-compliance with rules was a “serious problem”.
He said: “A strong alert level system should provide a road map for a country dealing with a crisis, maintaining independence from the ebb and flow of politics and personalities.
“The National Preparedness Commission brings together some of the UK’s best experts in handling emergencies. It is clear the country could do better. There is still time to make a difference and to save countless lives and we stand ready to support the Government in this effort.”