Covid-19 pandemic cost State almost €30bn in first two years, report finds

Final cost of pandemic set to rise as supports continued beyond end of public health measures, Comptroller and Auditor General says

The State spent almost €30 billion responding to Covid-19 during the first two years of the pandemic, according to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report.

With many supports continuing after the lifting of restrictions last February, the State continues to incur costs so this estimate is an interim one, it says.

Total direct expenditure as a result of Covid-19 was €12.4 billion in the year after Ireland’s first case on February 29th, 2020, and €17.1 billion in the second pandemic year that followed, giving a total of €29.5 billion.

In both years, the Departments of Social Protection, Health and Housing, Local Government and Heritage had the highest spend, accounting for 86 per cent of the total over the two years.


Business backing

Supports for businesses accounted for 39 per cent of all expenditure with the majority being funded by the Department of Social Protection. Supports to individuals accounted for 26 per cent, most of it also funded by the Department of Social Protection. Health and social care accounted for 23 per cent of total expenditure and was funded mainly by the Department of Health.

The costs reported do not include pay costs or administrative/general expenditure costs incurred by departmental votes, such as the pay costs of staff redeployed to work on Covid-19 responses.

Departmental spending was as follows: Social Protection, €7.61 billion; Health, €2.67 billion; Housing, Local Government and Heritage, €536 million; Transport, €421 million; Revenue, €395 million; Education, €386 million; Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media €218 million; and Other €213 million.

Month-on-month costs in 2021 remained relatively constant, except in December, when there was a large wave of infections.

Spending by the Department of Social Protection stayed on a gentle downward trajectory over the two years in keeping with the economy reopening, the report notes.

The Department of Health’s spending peaked last December as the Omicron wave hit Ireland. Half of the money it spent in the second year went on testing and tracing, and vaccines.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times