Disease Control

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 26th August 2021.

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Photo of Caroline Lucas Caroline Lucas Green, Brighton, Pavilion

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will list the names of each Government pandemic exercise held from 2010 onwards; what the (a) remit and (b) purpose was of Exercise Alice in 2016; when details of (i) Exercise Alice and (ii) all other exercises were provided to key advisory committees; and if he will publish a report to Parliament on the relevance of each exercise to the covid-19 pandemic.

Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Department does not hold details relating to all exercises conducted across Government. However, the Department has led on two pandemic preparedness exercises. The most recent exercise to test preparedness for an influenza pandemic was Exercise Cygnus in 2016. The report from Exercise Cygnus was published in October 2020 alongside information on how elements of our pandemic influenza plans were used in response to COVID-19. This report is available at the following link:


In February 2020, Exercise Nimbus rehearsed Ministerial-level decision-making in relation to the United Kingdom’s pandemic preparedness and response within the context of what was known at that point about COVID-19. We are unable to provide further information on this exercise as it relates to the formulation or development of Government policy.

Exercise Alice was held in February 2016 to test health system capabilities and protocols in the event of a larger outbreak, below pandemic level, of a high consequence infectious disease. We are unable to provide further information on this exercise as publication at the current time would be likely to prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

Reports of all such exercises are shared with attendees, officials and advisory committees as appropriate following the completion of the exercises. Working closely with the recently established UK Health Security Agency, partners across the health system and with wider Government, the Department is committed to using the lessons from COVID-19 to continue to ensure that future exercises support the UK’s preparedness for all types of health protection threats.

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