Covid-19 has to be the worst health crisis humanity has faced, perhaps, since, the Spanish Flu of 1918. Many of us right now, will be furloughed, working from home or even, unfortunately, having to claim Universal Credit. Nicholas Bishop reports
Health, of course, is paramount, but another equally important thing, for many, is the economy.
Many are asking, how is COVID-19, affecting the economy? Many businesses are temporarily closed and some smaller outlets have closed for good. Of course, large businesses like the pub-chain Wetherspoons, for example, will be able to, much better, weather the economic downturn. The owner and founder of the UK pub-chain, Tim Martin, wants to re-open in June. Whether this will be practical in reality, along with other pub, restaurant and cafe chains, remains to be seen. However, it would appear now, that such outlets may be allowed to open in a limited fashion, if phase 3 of the government’s lockdown plan, goes according to plan.
Some are predicting mass unemployment in the wake of COVID-19. Rishi Sunak has admitted there could be a recession, in an interview with BBC’s Laura Kuennsburg. While not saying it will be the worst economic downturn in a long time(as some have predicted) Sunak, for his part, was not encouraging in his words, either.
The nation has endured 10 years of austerity, before, COVID, took effect and the lockdown began on 23 March. Obviously, with the government’s austerity programme, it has been the poorest, in our society, which has been the hardest hit. The government have two choices, to balance the books, in a certain event, of a recession. The Johnson government may have to reimpose some sort of austerity or raise taxes on the highest earners. Certainly, when appearing on BBC’s, ‘Question Time’, former Chancellor, George Osborne, said the government may have to consider either option. When Fiona Bruce, challenged Mr Osborne, over the 10 years of austerity, instigated by the Cameron government, he was a member of, Mr Osborne, replied, “At the time, it seemed the right thing to do”. Certainly, if either option is necessary, the government will be on a losing wicket with many sectors within the British public. For example, if austerity is re-imposed, it will again, hit the poorest in society, already reeling from the last 10 years of cuts. If higher taxes are imposed, on the better off, then politically the Conservatives could find themselves damaged in future elections. On a political note, according to the latest ‘You Gov’ poll, Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, is already 1 point ahead of Boris Johnson, based solely, on both men’s appearances and performances, at Prime Minister’s Question Time. The survey gave Sir Keir Starmer, a + 23 points lead over his rival, with Mr Johnson, being on + 22.
Mr Johnson, last Sunday, announced an easing of the lockdown. This comes, however, with a proviso, of still keeping the 2-metre distance, but ultimately, encouraging people to go back to work if they can, with employers, being responsible for the safety of their employees. The government has announced a 3-point plan on easing the lockdown, however, that will be based, on COVID, the number of deaths and the number of infected, falling, in all sectors. The re-opening of businesses and people returning to work, however, will have to be handled carefully. However, despite apparent government successes in the battle against COVID-19, the virus has not gone away and will remain, a clear and present danger for some time. The casualty figures, from the virus, in the UK, remain the highest in Europe.
Countries like Japan that lifted their lockdown too early, because of economic reasons, found, to their cost, a spike in infections and deaths, once more. Consequently, Japan had tp re-impose lockdown with restrictions. Sir Keir Starmer, when questioning Mr Johnson at Prime Minister’s Question Time, held up Japan and other nations, as examples, of nations to follow, who lifted their lockdown too early, with tragic results. Also, other nations who had successfully had low deaths and infections, Sir Keir explained, should be nations the UK should look to.
One of the reasons, the UK government is lifting the lockdown partially, is because the government has been coming under pressure, from its donors.
Those who are furloughed will be managing, while others will be struggling to keep a roof over their head and food on the table. Certainly, when Rishi Sunak introduced the job retention scheme or furloughing, paying 80% of workers salaries, it was the biggest state intervention in a long time. Many from all sectors welcomed this, including the opposition parties. The scheme along with other measures seems highly genero