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Report on Exercise on Pandemic preparedness

Statement made on 20 October 2020

Statement UIN HCWS526


Today, I am publishing the report into Exercise Cygnus.

Exercise Cygnus was a national exercise that took place in 2016. It looked at how well prepared the UK was to respond to a serious flu pandemic. The aim was to test systems to the extreme, to identify strengths and weaknesses in the UK’s response plans, which would then inform improvements in our resilience.

The Department of Health and Social Care (known as the Department of Health at the time) 12 other Government departments, NHS England, Public Health England, local public services, several prisons, and staff from the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland governments took part in the exercise. Overall, it involved more than 950 people and culminated in a 3-day national level tier 1 exercise in October 2016.

Exercise Cygnus was not designed to consider other potential pandemics, or to identify what action could be taken to prevent widespread transmission.

The report was commissioned by the Department of Health and Social Care and produced independently by Public Health England.

The government accepted all 22 recommendations from the report and has acted on each to improve pandemic response plans. For example, developing a free-standing Pandemic Influenza Bill. This meant the Government was ready with legislative proposals that could rapidly be tailored to form the basis of what became the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Many of these workstreams have provided a good foundation during the current COVID-19 pandemic, helping speed up our response and save lives. I will deposit copies of the report in the libraries of both Houses and it will be available on

Statement from

Department of Health and Social Care

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This statement has also been made in the House of Lords

Department of Health and Social Care
Report on Exercise on Pandemic preparedness
Lord Bethell
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Minister for Innovation)
Conservative, Excepted Hereditary
Statement made 20 October 2020