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UK set to spend over £200bn responding to Covid-19 pandemic, finds audit

The Government has committed to £210bn in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, having so far spent more than £70bn, the National Audit Office (NAO) has estimated.

Announcing its new tracker to monitor the costs incurred as the healthcare and economic crises continue, the NAO has identified that the Government has announced over 190 measures, some of which are yet to be implemented in full.

The NAO previously reported that the Government had committed an excess of £120bn in response to the crisis between 31 January and 4 May alone.

The new tracker will provide a summary that is independent of Government influence and builds on the NAO’s previous Overview of the UK Government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, first published in May.

It is set to incorporate data from across Governmental departments, including healthcare and those affecting GPs, in order to provide a list of details such as how much has been spent on each measure so far. 

It intends for the tracker to ‘increase transparency’ and ‘assist Parliament and the public in scrutinising the Government spending’ as the health and economic emergencies continue. 

The body, which acts as the UK’s independent public spending watchdog, has stated that it will update its tracker periodically, and use it to inform its wider work in reporting on the Government’s response to the crisis.

It comes as the country has entered a new enforcement of measures, with social gatherings of more than six people to become illegal on Monday (14 September). This is irrespective of whether the individuals are from the same household, or whether the events are held outdoors.

Since June, 30 people have been allowed to meet, but there are rising concerns after almost 3,000 people in the UK tested positive for Covid-19 on consecutive days.

Meanwhile, the Government is facing criticism for a dwindling availability of testing, with many people attempting to book one being redirected to centres at the opposite end of the country, or finding that home kits cannot be issued. Today, GPs said they were being inundated with test requests from struggling patients.

The UK’s Covid response also faced a potential blow today as pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca was forced to pause its Government-sponsored trial for a prospective vaccine to protect against the virus, after a participant in the UK suffered an adverse effect.