Government was underprepared for a pandemic, report finds

19 May 2021, 09:09 | Updated: 19 May 2021, 11:46

A report has found that the Government was underprepared for a pandemic
A report has found that the Government was underprepared for a pandemic. Picture: Getty

By Daisy Stephens

The UK Government was underprepared for a pandemic, according to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO).

The study, which is designed to help the government learn from their response, analysed a number of things including public trust, delivery models, and data and evidence from the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

It found that, as well as being underprepared, the UK also had workforce shortages, an unreformed adult social care system, and a government – both central and local – that was under immense financial pressure, all of which affected the success of its response.

“Covid-19 has required government to respond to an exceptionally challenging and rapidly changing threat,” said Gareth Davies, head of the NAO.

“There is much to learn from the successes and failures in government’s response and this report is our initial contribution to that process.

“Applying these lessons is not only important for the remaining phases of the current pandemic but should also help better prepare the UK for future emergencies.”

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The report found that, while some aspects of the response such as the vaccine rollout had been successful, others indicated that the government “lacked detailed contingency plans to manage the unfolding situation”.

In order to learn from it, the report made a number of recommendations for the government, including a more “systematic” approach, improving the resilience of key workers and making better use of the data available.

It also recommended greater documentation and transparency of decisions to encourage public trust, something that Boris Johnson’s team has been repeatedly attacked for by Labour.

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Boris Johnson announced an inquiry into the Government's Covid response
Boris Johnson announced an inquiry into the Government's Covid response. Picture: Getty

The report comes just a week after Boris Johnson announced a full public inquiry into the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He told the House of Commons that the government has an obligation to examine its role in the handling of the crisis, and that there would be a full inquiry beginning in Spring 2022.

He said: "Amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible, and to learn every lesson for the future - which is why I've always said when the time is right there should be a full and independent inquiry.

"So, I can confirm today that the Government will establish an independent public inquiry on a statutory basis, with full powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 - including the ability to compel the production of all relevant materials and take oral evidence in public under oath.

"In establishing the inquiry, we will work closely with the devolved administrations."

Mr Johnson also announced he would form a UK Commission on Covid Commemoration to remember those who have died of Covid, and to honour frontline workers and those involved in the vaccination effort.