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U.K.’s Pandemic Response ‘Too Slow’ and Cost Taxpayers Billions

  • Spending watchdog: U.K. lost ‘crucial month’ in Covid fight
  • Separate report says delay meant U.K. paid over odds for PPE
Airbus SE Manufacturing Ventilators For U.K. Coronavirus Demand
Photographer: Paul Thomas/Bloomberg
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The U.K. lost a “crucial month” in its fight against coronavirus because it was too slow to respond to a shortage of ventilators, while the delay in sourcing protective equipment came at a cost of 10 billion pounds ($13.3 billion) to the taxpayer, according to two spending reports.

Ministers only started efforts to buy more ventilators on March 3, just over a month after the World Health Organization declared the pandemic a public health emergency, the House of Commons spending watchdog said Wednesday. The National Audit Office, which scrutinizes public spending, said the U.K.’s tardiness in sourcing PPE forced ministers to pay “very high prices” for new kit -- much of which came too late for the first wave of infections.