THE question about when – or even if – the lockdown should be lifted is on everyone’s mind. Every day, whichever unfortunate minister has been selected to face questions is asked when the country will be able to return to work. Every day, the vague answer-mantra is repeated: the need to satisfy the ‘five tests’ must come first.
The problem is that none of these five tests factors in any sort of economic consideration. There is no fiscal brake; no point at which the government says ‘this has cost us enough, we have to stop’. And costing money it is: £2.4billion every day.
It is perhaps useful to see this £2.4billion figure in some context. The decade of austerity which we have recently (supposedly) left behind brought with it £30billion worth of cuts to public services. This figure is lessthan what we are losing every two weeksunder the lockdown.
Furthermore, many workers might not have jobs to go back to. High street chains have admitted that many familiar names will not return once we are allowed out of our houses. It is hard, if not impossible, to see how many of our small businesses will be able to reopen, unless their owners are able to inject huge amounts of money to keep them afloat.
Thus the economic outlook is bleak, to put it mildly. We are heading, in the opinion of the IMF, for the biggest recession since the Great Depression. You would hope, then, that the British public would be champing at the bit to return to work, and to help the economy out of the quagmire that it finds itself in.
Not so, it seems. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Polling from Ipsos MORI of 14 countries from five continents has shown that Brits are the least likely to want the economy to restart before the coronavirus has been fully contained. Only 23 per cent of UK respondents said this was a good idea, compared with 50 per cent in Germany, and 60 per cent in Russia. Other European countries are notably higher than the UK; France sits at 39 per cent, with Italy at 53 per cent. Spain, the second-most reluctant European nation, clocks in at 31 per cent.
Not only do a low percentage in Britain definitely want the economy to restart, but a high percentage definitely do not want this. In the UK, as well as Canada, this figure is 70 per cent.
This is truly astounding stuff. One can only conclude that the people surveyed are worried about the health implications of an early lifting of the lockdown measures – a valid enough concern, but do they not also realise the huge implications that the obliteration of our economy will bring with it?
The same people who lambasted Cameron and May for tightening the purse-strings after a recession are now ready to jump on Johnson should he try to prevent the same thing happening twice. Turkeys and Christmas wishes come to mind . . .