14/06/2006

Government tests pandemic flu preparations

The Department of Health is leading a cross-government exercise to test preparations for a pandemic influenza outbreak.

Exercise Shared Goal will be conducted in government offices as a "table top" exercise designed to test the UK's ability to manage pandemic flu and the decision making processes that would be faced during a national health emergency.

Departments taking part in the exercise include the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Cabinet Office, the Treasury and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Professor Lindsey Davies, National Director of Pandemic Influenza Preparedness, said: "There is currently no risk to the public from pandemic flu and avian flu remains primarily a disease we see in birds.

"However, it is sensible that we prepare ourselves in case we do see an outbreak of pandemic flu at some time in the future. To do this properly we need to test out the policies we would put in place and the decisions we would make. That is why Exercise Shared Goal is so important.

"This exercise does not indicate that there is an increased risk of pandemic flu, but it does demonstrate the strategic and tactical planning that is taking place across all government departments and agencies and it will test the ability of the Department of Health and other government departments to manage the effects of pandemic flu."

The trigger for Exercise Shared Goal will be based on an assumption that the World Health Organisation has declared that Phase 5 of the pandemic alert levels has been reached.

Phase 5 is described as a substantial pandemic risk based on large localised clusters of infection in a source country.

Exercise Shared Goal begins at 9am on June 14 and will finish around 5pm on June 15.

(KMcA)

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