MPs have told the Government the typical six-month “buffer stock” of medicines need to be boosted to ensure that the UK is fully prepared for a second wave of the coronavirus. In a report examining the economic impact of COVID-19, the Commons International Trade Committee said the move would help better prepare the UK for similar scenarios to the one faced by the NHS during the peak of the pandemic.
The study found UK trade in essential goods like pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and food had mainly managed well in the crisis, but more action was needed to prepare for a second wave.
MPs said: “UK supply chains in these critical sectors have largely held up during the pandemic, despite spikes in demand, disruption to production and freight, and export bans in some countries.
“While UK supply chains for medicines have proved to be resilient, they can only be stretched so far.
“The Government must ensure that buffer stock of medicines (which typically only lasts up to six months) is being replenished in case of a further pandemic wave.”
Committee chairman and SNP MP Angus MacNeil said dealing with the economic impact of coronavirus was a matter of “intimidating complexity”.
He said: “The question now facing trade policymakers is not only how to help economies respond to the damage caused by COVID-19 but also how to better prepare for a similarly dire scenario in the future.
“It is a task of intimidating complexity and seeing it through will require political dexterity.
“Ensuring supply-chain resilience and access to essential goods needs smart solutions that avoid falling into the trap of short-sighted protectionism.
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“The report calls on DIT to step up its efforts in helping inward investors.
“The committee also calls on the Government to set out its approach to investment agreements in light of issues raised by the pandemic.
“Following concerns about predatory investors taking advantage of the devaluation of assets in the pandemic, the committee asks the Government to set out how it will strike a balance between screening investment for security concerns and promoting inward investment.”
The report by the committee comes after Boris Johnson warned there are signs of a second wave emerging in Europe.
The Prime Minister made the comments in defence of the Government’s decision to reintroduce 14-day quarantine measures for travellers returning from Spain to the UK, after cases started to rise in the popular holiday destination.
Mr Johnson said: “What we have to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risks are starting to bubble up again.
“Let’s be absolutely clear about what’s happening in Europe: Amongst some of our European friends, I’m afraid you are starting to see in some places the signs of a second wave of the pandemic.”