Nearly 19 months after the coronavirus pandemic was declared, a landmark Commons report – the first major report looking into the UK’s response to coronavirus – has been published. The 151-page report, titled Coronavirus: Lessons Learned to Date, led by two former Conservative ministers, praises the government’s handling of the vaccine rollout and says that it has saved many lives.

But it finds that the initial handling of the crisis – from the delay going into lockdown to the protection of older people in care homes – amounted to one of the worst public health failures in British history.

In this episode, Rachel Humphreys speaks to Guardian political correspondent Peter Walker about the failings uncovered in the report, from evidence of “groupthink” and a sense of British exceptionalism to a deliberately “slow and gradualist” approach that meant the UK fared significantly worse than other countries.

He outlines problems with the test-and-trace programme, the disproportionate effect on people of colour and those with disabilities, and why the vaccination programme was seen as so much more successful than the initial response. And he reflects on the lessons the report lays out if another pandemic should hit in the future.



Medical staff in an intensive care unit at the heigh of the pandemic.

Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

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