The Daily Telegraph

Failure to plan for economic effects of virus ‘astonishin­g’


THE Government’s failure to plan for the economic impact of the pandemic has been branded “astonishin­g” by MPS.

A report by the Commons public accounts committee has said a lack of preparedne­ss could have a “long-term” impact on the economy.

It criticised the fact the Treasury waited until the middle of March, days before schools and businesses were closed by the lockdown, before designing the coronaviru­s economic support schemes.

Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the committee, said: “Pandemic planning is the bread and butter of government risk planning, but we learn it was treated solely as a health issue, with no planning for the economic impacts.

“This meant that the economic strategy was of necessity rushed and reactive, initially a one-size-fits-all response that’s leaving people – and whole sectors of the economy – behind.

“A competent Government does not run a country on the hoof, and it will not steer us through this global health and economic crisis that way.”

Ms Hillier called for reassuranc­e that there is “serious thinking” behind how the Government would manage a potential second spike of the virus.

The committee said the Government should “learn lessons” from its response and “ensure it doesn’t repeat its mistakes again in the event of a second spike in infections – or another novel disease outbreak”.

Its report said: “We are astonished by the Government’s failure to consider in advance how it might deal with the economic impacts of a pandemic.”

In 2016 the Government carried out a pandemic simulation exercise, called Exercise Cygnus. The MPS said that while this exercise was health focused, “it is astounding that the Government did not think about the potential impact on the economy, and that the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was not even aware of the exercise”.

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