The estimated cost of the Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has risen to an “eye-watering” £372 billion, a government watchdog has said.
The National Audit Office (NAO) said the cost had risen by more than £100 billion since its last report in January this year.
Chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Meg Hillier said it showed how public accountability “has never been more important”.
Support for businesses is forecast to be the biggest spending area in the government’s pandemic response.
— National Audit Office (@NAOorguk) May 17, 2021
The NAO Covid-19 cost tracker now captures a full year of predicted costs since the pandemic began, with £172 billion already spent.
It includes £26 billion worth of guaranteed loans which are expected to be written off.
Support for businesses such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme had the highest estimated cost, at £151 billion.
This was followed by help for the health and social care sector at £97 billion.
Programmes such as the Self Employment Support Scheme, under help for individuals, came to £55 billion.
And there was an additional £65 billion estimated to be spent on support for other public services and emergency responses.
Labour MP Ms Hillier added: “Government expects to spend an eye-watering £372 billion in response to the pandemic, and public accountability has never been more important.
“The NAO’s cost-tracker tool is vital as the primary public data source on Covid spending across government.
“With such huge sums going out the door, and government guaranteeing loans worth over £90 billion, government faces a long road to recovery ahead.”