Government Tests Human Influenza Plan

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The Government's response to a human flu pandemic was tested in Exercise Winter Willow on Monday 19th and Tuesday 20th February.

The exercise fully tested the UK's ability to manage the effects of an influenza pandemic by playing out the decision-making process at national, regional and local levels, when there are widespread cases across the country. A human flu pandemic would occur when a new flu virus, to which people had little or no natural immunity, emerged.

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The biggest exercise of its kind to study the response of the NHS, local authorities and Government Departments to pandemic flu - it was an excellent opportunity to evaluate the planning presumptions, policy and operational procedures across Government and the NHS. The findings of Exercise Winter Willow will then be fed into the overall pandemic flu preparedness plan.

Chief Medical Officer for England, Sir Liam Donaldson, said of the exercise:

"When a 'flu pandemic hits the country the top priority for the Government is to protect the public. The World Health Organization has said that the UK is at the forefront of preparations internationally, but it is always necessary to test our responses and improve them where required. This exercise is another part of the continual testing, refining, and developing of our plans.

"The NHS is ready to implement its well-rehearsed plan."

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