UK's Covid bill hits £372bn as MPs warn it will take decades to pay back

Report reveals taxpayers have been exposed to 'substantial risks' by the cost of the pandemic

A report into government spending in the UK during the pandemic has revealed the current cost to be £372 billion ($511.33bn).

The figure was calculated by the Public Accounts Committee and published in a report on Sunday.

The cost is three times higher than the public spending watchdog estimated last year.

More than a quarter of the bill relates to measures to support the government's furlough programme, which aided employers and their staff during the outbreak.

The report said taxpayers would be exposed to "significant financial risks for decades to come".

"While we acknowledge that there was a need to relax the usual rules surrounding major spending decisions, we are concerned that this has created serious risks that may require managing for years," it said.

Committee chairwoman Dame Meg Hillier called on the government to announce plans to manage the costs.

"With eye-watering sums of money spent on Covid measures so far, the government needs to be clear, now, how this will be managed going forward, and over what period of time," she said.

The report also emphasised concerns about the government's spending on personal protective equipment.

It revealed £10bn was spend on equipment and that some of it was "not fit for purpose".

It found that 8.4 billion items from abroad have not yet arrived in the UK and 10,000 shipping containers are still to be unloaded.

Storing the items costs £6.7m a week, the report said.

On Sunday, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid was forced to apologise after he tweeted that people should not "cower" from Covid-19.

Victims' families called his comments insensitive.

More than 5.6 million Covid-19 cases and about 129,000 deaths have been reported in the UK.

Updated: July 25th 2021, 2:51 PM