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Coronavirus: ‘No plan’, ‘rushed’ and run ‘on the hoof’: MPs condemn government’s pandemic reaction

A damning report on failures in government planning for the economic impact of coronavirus has been launched by a powerful all-party committee of MPs.

Parliament’s top spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), has accused Boris Johnson and senior ministers of failing to plan for job losses and school closures.

And in almost certainly the most scathing official report on coronavirus so far, the MPs condemn the government over the failure to obtain PPE equipment to protect front line staff.

The hard-hitting report will alarm ministers and health chiefs, coming only a week after the prime minister promised an independent inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The committee says the economic reaction to COVID-19 was rushed, leaving many sectors of the economy behind, and a lack of preparedness could have a long-term impact on the economy.

And it says despite warnings from medical chiefs in January, the Treasury waited until mid-March, days before the lockdown on 23 March, before deciding on economic support schemes.

The committee also issues a stark warning of the impact of the pandemic on children, stating: “It will be a huge task to ensure lengthy school closures do not have long-term or irreversible effects on children and young people’s future health and education.

“Yet, while school closures were predicted in pandemic planning, there seems to have been no plan for how schools and pupils would be supported to continue to learn.”

The committee urges the government to learn lessons from its response and ensure it does not repeat mistakes again in the event of a second spike in coronavirus or another disease.

And in unusually strong language for a select committee report, the MPs declare: “We are astonished by the government’s failure to consider in advance how it might deal with the economic impacts of a pandemic.”

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