London (UK), November 22: The coronavirus pandemic exposed Britain's vulnerability to whole-system emergencies and left the British government unprepared, the National Audit Office (NAO) said in a recent report.
The government did not act on warnings from pandemic simulations carried out prior to COVID-19 based on an influenza outbreak, said the NAO.
It added preparations for Britain's exit from the European Union led to the government pausing work on other emergency preparations, citing that the Civil Contingencies Secretariat allocated 56 of its 94 full-time equivalent staff to prepare for potential disruptions from a no-deal exit.
This limited the government's ability to focus on other risk and contingency planning at the same time, said the report.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO said: "This pandemic has exposed the UK's vulnerability to whole-system emergencies, where the emergency is so broad that it engages all levels of government and society. Although government had plans for a flu pandemic, it was not prepared for a pandemic like COVID-19 and did not learn important lessons from the simulation exercises it carried out."
"The government was not fully prepared for the wide-ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on society, the economy and essential public services. It lacked detailed plans on shielding, employment support schemes and managing the disruption to schooling," said the report.
In its conclusions, the NAO called on the British government to strengthens its preparations for system-wide emergencies. It suggested the Cabinet Office establish who leads and manages system-wide risks, and strengthen oversight and assurance arrangements over preparations for system-wide emergencies.
The NAO is responsible for scrutinizing public spending for parliament and is independent of government and the civil service.
Britain registered 40,004 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 9,845,492, according to official figures released Sunday.
The country also reported a further 61 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 143,927. These death toll only includes people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.