Britain’s current Covid alert system is “inconsistent, unclear and is costing lives,” according to a new report.
The National Preparedness Commission (NPC) said the five-tier system in place was “almost meaningless” as the tiers were not tied to specific actions, such as the rule of six or wearing a mask in stores.
In the current system, each level is associated with an increased number of coronavirus cases and the associated stress on the healthcare system – but does not prescribe corresponding restrictions or guidance for the public based on those levels.
The organization, made up of more than 40 experts from law enforcement, defense, science and industry, said Covid’s advice appeared politically motivated and lacked a scientific basis – resulting in a lack of compliance among the public.
The report says that in the UK the triggers for raising or lowering the Covid-19 alert level are regularly redefined, adding to the lack of confidence.
Its authors are now calling for more transparent decision-making, the application of rules, clearer public expectations and standardization at the national level.
Report co-author Dr Carina Fearnley of the Warnings Research Center at University College London (UCL) said: go up or down.
“They save lives by helping people prepare for and weather a crisis and by fostering a collective sense of responsibility. Without a robust Alert Level System at the heart of our nation’s pandemic response, people are bombarded with an ever-changing stream of advice that is responsive, inconsistent and unclear. There is no doubt that it costs lives.
“In the UK, government advice on Covid-19 is increasingly seen as being politically motivated, rather than representing the best information available from reliable expert sources, backed by decisive leadership from politicians. Conflicting messages have led to confusion and a growing 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 rule-breaking was a “serious problem”.
He said: “A strong alert level system should provide a roadmap for a country facing a crisis, maintaining its independence from the ebb and flow of politics and personalities.
“The National Preparedness Commission brings together some of the UK’s top emergency management experts. It is clear that the country could do better. There is still time to make a difference and save countless lives and we stand ready to support the government in this effort. “
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