Another pandemic is “absolutely inevitable”, says Patrick Vallance | Patrick Vallance

The government’s former chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said another pandemic is “absolutely inevitable” and urged the incoming British government to focus on preparing for it, warning that “we are not ready yet.”

Speaking at a panel at the Hay festival in Powys, Vallance said it is “great that we have an election” as “clearly there are issues that need to be resolved”. One of the things the next government needs to do is implement “better surveillance to be able to detect these things,” he said.

He also reiterated what he told G7 leaders in 2021, that “we need to be much faster, much more aligned – and there are ways to do it – to get rapid diagnostic tests, rapid vaccines, rapid treatments, so that we don’t have to. take the extreme measures that were taken” during the Covid-19 pandemic. The measures he recommends are possible to implement, Vallance believes, but “they require some coordination.”

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He said that by 2023 the G7 had “somewhat forgotten” the points it had raised in 2021. “You can’t forget that,” he urged, recommending that pandemic preparations be treated in a similar way to the armed forces.

“We know we have to have a military, not because there’s going to be a war this year, but we know it’s an important part of what we need as a nation,” he said. “We need to treat this preparation the same and not consider it easy to keep cutting when there are no signs of a pandemic, because there will be no signs of a pandemic.”

He mentioned the World Health Organization’s push for a pandemic agreement, a proposed agreement for countries to work together to prepare for pandemics, as one of the “steps in the right direction” being taken. “But I don’t think there’s enough attention,” she said. If this issue is removed from the G7 and G20 agendas, “we will be in exactly the same position and I hope that will be an important outcome of the investigation.”

That said, he said there are problems with the speed and efficiency of how investigations are done, and said we “have to find a better way” to do them.

Although Vallance believes it is time for an election, he praised the outgoing government’s anti-smoking bill and said he is disappointed it will not be passed before the election. “I think that needs to be picked up quickly afterwards.”

Asked whether protesters should have been allowed to play Things Can Only Get Better during Rishi Sunak’s speech outside 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, he said he believes such protests are “part of our democracy” and that the decision by Sunak and his team not to find a location because the speech in which it could have been heard “is a sign of incompetence”.

“The chaos of that event was emblematic,” he said.

However, he does believe that certain acts of protest cross the line. Vallance is the president of the Natural History Museum and said he believes an incident in which paint was thrown on an exhibit was “wrong,” and if Just Stop Oil protesters had managed to damage Magna Carta earlier this month, that would have been wrong too.