Public say politicians not taking threat of future pandemics seriously – survey

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The majority of the public think UK politicians are not taking the threat of the next pandemic seriously, new data suggests.

Three years since the Covid-19 pandemic was declared, and despite more than 200,000 deaths in the UK, 59% of people feel the threat of future pandemics is not being taken seriously.

A survey also found that the UK public has a strong desire to see greater action at both a domestic and international level to prepare for the next pandemic.

The poll, conducted by YouGov, was commissioned by the Rhodes Trust ahead of the inaugural Rhodes Policy Summit on Creating a Positive Legacy from the Pandemic on April 14 in London.

Commenting on the survey results, Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at the University of Oxford, and chairman of the Rhodes Trustees said: “There is resounding agreement from the public that politicians need to step up and take immediate, decisive action to prepare for the next pandemic.

“The devastating impact of Covid-19 made it clear that we can’t wait until a new pathogen starts to spread to respond – the time to act is now.

“Early preparation and developing an ‘Always On’ approach to make sure our global healthcare systems are prepared for the worst is vital to mitigate the impact of the next pandemic and save lives.”

While three in five of the UK public (60%) think wealthier governments should be doing more to share access to vaccines during emergencies with low- and middle-income countries.

The poll also found that more than half (52%) of those questioned think wealthier governments should be doing more to support these countries to develop their own vaccines.

According to health analytics organisation Airfinity, which tracks the spread of infectious diseases, public concern about the need for greater political action to prepare for the next pandemic is justified.

According to the company’s disease risk modelling, without a strong pandemic defence system, there is a 27.5 % chance another pandemic as deadly as Covid-19 could happen in the next 10 years.

Rasmus Bech Hansen, CEO and co-founder of Airfinity, said: “A growing global population, climate change, larger numbers of diseases transferred from animals to humans, as well as increased international travel are the main reasons we are at risk of facing another pandemic as deadly as Covid-19 in the next decade.

“However, our modelling shows that with an ‘Always On’ vaccine approach, this risk could be reduced by 70%.

“The world needs to be prepared and to do this public health infrastructure, surveillance, and global data sharing are essential to prevent history from repeating itself.”

The survey was conducted online between March 13 and March 14 2023. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

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