To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, pursuant to the Answer of 26 August 2021 to Question 16063 on Disease Control, for what reason publication at the current time of further information on the pandemic preparedness Exercise Alice of 2016 would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs; at what time and for what reasons publication would be less likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs; and if he will make a statement.
11 October 2021
The Department has robust plans for responding to disease outbreaks that are regularly tested through preparedness exercises and we recognise the public interest in making this information available. Exercise Alice tested preparedness for handling an outbreak of Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). As both MERS and COVID-19 are caused by coronaviruses, the Department assesses that the publication of further information related to Exercise Alice could lead to false parallels being drawn between the hypothetical response to the MERS outbreak scenario in Exercise Alice and the response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. This could undermine faith in and support for the National Health Service, resulting in negative health impacts through a possible reduction in care-seeking behaviour.
The Department is currently reviewing its decision to withhold the Exercise Alice report. A number of factors will influence this decision, including the current stage of the COVID-19 pandemic response.