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Infectious Diseases: Disease Control

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 56961, tabled on 15 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, when the existence of the Report: Exercise Alice Middle East Respiratory Virus Coronavirus (MERS-Cov) 15 February 2016 was first brought to Ministerial attention; which Ministers were (a) told of the existence and (b) sent a copy of that report, and on what dates; if he will list the number of occasions in each of the last five years Ministers have requested an update on pandemic preparedness exercises, and progress on carrying out agreed actions and recommendations; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

24 November 2021

Exercise Alice was a tabletop preparedness exercise carried out in 2016 to prepare for a potential outbreak of the high consequence infectious disease Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) in the United Kingdom (UK).

As Ministers receive regular and routine updates on our pandemic preparedness programme, including preparedness exercises for pandemics and high consequence infectious disease outbreaks, such as the 2016 Exercise Alice, we do not hold records of the number of times updates were specifically requested.

According to our records, Minsters were first given a copy of the report when Minister Jo Churchill was provided with a copy of the report, on 1 December 2020, following a request made for the report under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Government has been extremely proactive in implementing lessons learnt around pandemic preparedness from exercises and incident responses to ensure that the UK remains well-prepared for a pandemic infectious disease outbreak. This includes being ready with legislative proposals and improving health sector plans to flex and expand systems beyond normal capacity levels.

The results of Exercise Alice have been incorporated into ongoing planning work conducted by The Department, The United Kingdom Health Security Agency and NHS England and NHS Improvement to respond to potential High Consequence Infectious Disease outbreaks in the UK.