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A study into the swine flu outbreak last year has shown that it cost Britain £1.2 billion even though it was less severe than first feared.
Early warnings suggested around 65,000 people across the UK could die as a result of the pandemic, but the Government-commissioned study showed that the actual death toll was 457.
The Government’s response to the crisis was “proportionate and effective”, the inquiry into the handling of the emergency concluded.
But it criticised restrictive contracts with drug companies.
In England alone, there are stockpiles of more than 20 million unused doses of swine flu vaccines.
The review revealed that Britain spent £654 million preparing for a possible flu pandemic, and £587 million responding to last year’s H1N1 outbreak – a total of £1.24 billion.
This included £1.01 billion on drugs, among them anti-virals, vaccines and antibiotics, as well as £115.4 million on items like face masks and respirators.
Critics questioned why the bill for tackling the pandemic was so large, with one describing Britain’s response as a “hugely expensive farce”.
But Dame Deirdre Hine, a former chief medical officer for Wales who led the review, said: “It is fairly clear, although we can’t actually identify the number, that there probably were lives saved of very young people, young children and so on. These are extremely valuable lives.”
Copyright Press Association 2010