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Government preparedness for the COVID-19 Pandemic: Lessons for government on risk


In July 2020 the PAC made its first report on the UK Government’s broad, initial response to the Covid-19 pandemic, saying there had been an “astonishing” failure to plan appropriately especially in relation to the national economy, where it was revealed in evidence to the Committee that there had really been “no specific plan” at all.

The Committee has since reported on Government failures in balancing risk across many aspects of its response to the pandemic, and lack of planning and preparedness despite an influenza pandemic having been identified as the UK’s top non-malicious risk on government’s National Risk Register since 2008.

This follow up inquiry is based on the NAO’s recent findings that Government was not fully prepared for the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on society, the economy and essential public services, and did not act upon some warnings from the simulations carried out prior to COVID-19, which highlighted issues around planning, coordination and capability that apply to pandemics more broadly.

For example, Government lacked detailed plans on shielding, employment support schemes and managing the disruption to schooling. Departments’ pandemic plans and business continuity plans set out some, but not all, of the responses required to maintain operations during the pandemic.

Preparations for EU exit enhanced the crisis capabilities and risk planning of some departments but meant that government paused work on other emergency preparations, limiting its ability to focus on other risk and contingency planning at the same time.

The Committee will question senior officials at DHSC and the Cabinet Office. If you have evidence on the issues raised in this inquiry, please submit it here by Wednesday 5th January 2022.