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Novichok was big but Covid-19 is bigger, says health chief

Crisis: Tracy Daszkiewicz led the response to Salisbury poisonings two years before coronavirus

THE health chief played by Anne-Marie Duff in the BBC drama about the Salisbury poisonings says Covid-19 has been an even bigger challenge.

As Wiltshire’s director of public health, Tracey Daszkiewicz led the response to the 2018 novichok nerve agent poisoning of former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

She said the experience stood her in good stead when the pandemic struck at the start of the year.

Giving evidence to the Lords’ public services committee, she said: ‘Novichok gave us a massive incident and one that we thought would remain the biggest of our career.

‘Little did we know what 2020 had in store.’

In the BBC One drama The Salisbury Poisonings, Duff (pictured) showed Ms Daszkiewicz taking what seemed at the time a radical decision to shut local businesses in the wake of the chemical attack. She was asked how accurate the TV series was.

‘I think conceptually the drama did a great job of showing public service and the impact of profound events on ordinary people,’ said Ms Daszkiewicz, who is now deputy director of population health and wellbeing at Public Health England.

‘My character was very much a composite of the tremendous public health expertise that I was part of.’

She praised the way health officials have worked together in the pandemic, adding: ‘These things are very well-rehearsed.’