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Response to announcement of publication of Cygnus Report

An NHS doctor and journalist campaigning for the release of the full findings into Exercise Cygnus, a pandemic simulation exercise in 2016, have issued a response to Matt Hancock's announcement that he has published the Cygnus Report.

Posted on 25 October 2020

Dr Moosa Qureshi and Tommy Greene say the report the Health Secretary released this week is the exactly the same as what was published by The Guardian following a leak back in May and does not contain the full findings of Exercise Cygnus.
The pair have asked to see the full findings of Exercise Cygnus via a Freedom of Information request submitted in April, and an application for judicial review, which is due to go to appeal on 19 November 2020.
Dr Qureshi and Mr Greene understand that the full findings of Exercise Cygnus are contained in numerous reports. In their legal case they have set out their understanding that there is a ‘compendium’ document containing all of the lessons and recommendations from Exercise Cygnus which does not resemble the ‘leaked’ report that has now been published. In addition, they understand that there is, at the very least,
  • A specific report focusing on NHS population triage;
  • A specific report around the emergency powers act, and what needs to be done legally to prepare for a pandemic; and
  • Individual reports regarding the participants in Exercise Cygnus.
The fact that there are other reports setting out the findings of Exercise Cygnus is supported by the fact that the report just published does not contain detail that it is expected the findings of Exercise Cygnus would. That expectation is based on comments from government sources and other documents in the public domain referring to the simulation exercise, including that going to the provision of PPE or problems relating to “Surge Capacity”
They point out that further attempts by their lawyers, Leigh Day solicitors, to have the full findings of Exercise Cygnus published have been met throughout by evasion and obstruction.
Recently, an intervention by the Information Commissioner, ordering Mr Hancock to respond to Dr Qureshi and Mr Greene’s Freedom of Information request by Friday, 23 October, was met with yet more delaying tactics. Following the intervention, Government lawyers wrote to Leigh Day solicitors, who represent Dr Qureshi and Mr Greene, to say that they required further time until 9 November to provide a substantive response.
Tommy Greene said:
“This announcement by Matt Hancock to the House of Commons on Tuesday does not take us any further. We already know what is in the version of the report he has ordered to be published. We want to see the full findings of the report that details in full the gaps in NHS provision that would have helped this country be better prepared when covid hit and could still help us as we go into a the second wave of the pandemic."
Moosa Qureshi said:

“We have been requesting Cygnus for many months now, and the Government has repeatedly delayed disclosure, saying each time that it was "weighing the public interest" while NHS frontline workers were struggling blindly, deprived of potentially life-saving data. Now the Government has published what the newspapers published months ago, and their document is preposterously bereft of the healthcare data expected from a national pandemic exercise, which begs the question, "What else is this Government hiding?"
Leigh Day partner Tessa Gregory said:
“It is absurd that the Government has only now published the PHE summary report on Exercise Cygnus some five months after the Guardian published the same document following a leak.
“Our clients understand that there are other key documents which set out more fully the findings of Exercise Cygnus and the action which the Government should have taken following the exercise. 
“Our clients will continue to fight for transparency and seek the release of the full findings of Exercise Cygnus as the findings had and continue to have a bearing on the government’s response to the ongoing pandemic.”
Tessa Gregory
Corporate accountability Human rights Judicial review Planning Wildlife

Tessa Gregory

Tessa is an experienced litigator who specialises in international and domestic human rights law cases

Carolin Ott
Human rights Judicial review

Carolin Ott

Carolin Ott is a senior associate solicitor in the human rights department.

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