No planning was done for the enormous economic damage likely to be caused by a pandemic hitting the UK, senior civil servants have admitted.
The government modelled the impact on the health service and on local government’s ability to cope, but did no detailed work on companies having to shut down and on staff being laid off, MPs were told.
“That’s extraordinary,” said Meg Hillier, the chairman of the Commons committee investigating preparations ahead of the Covid-19 outbreak, adding: “I’m quite dumbstruck by that.”
The absence of planning emerged as a quartet of Whitehall permanent civil servants were questioned on their department’s response to the coronavirus, at the start of the year and since.
In 2017, Exercise Cygnus simulated an influenza pandemic, concluding that Britain was not adequately prepared and predicting the crisis that was later to unfold in care homes.