Shropshire Star comment: Economic toll of coronavirus will be huge
The economy has fallen off a cliff edge. This is the price of saving lives with the lockdown. Hundreds of thousands of people may have lost their jobs but don’t know it yet.
Health comes first, but the misery and hardship that the coronavirus restrictions have triggered is going to be profound and long lasting.
Nobody will be surprised that bringing things to a sudden stop in March has had a devastating impact. Figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown economic activity plunged 5.8 per cent in the biggest monthly fall since records began in 1997.
As if that is not bad enough, when figures for the second quarter come through, which will reflect the full consequences of the standstill, some experts are predicting a 20 per cent dive.
The pandemic has already ensured we are living in historic times. With that comes the prospect of an economic downturn of historic magnitude.
The government has carried the public with it in taking the measures it has done. Countries around the world have broadly done the same, so Britain has not whimsically embarked on some over-the-top act of economic self-harm.
You will soon not need to consult statistics to see what has happened. The closed shops, collapsed businesses, and ordinary Britons who are out of work and suffering through no fault of their own will tell the story.
The government’s hugely expensive furlough scheme has been a vital act of support which has bought firms and enterprises a bit of time.
Firms which go under will not be there to help with the economic bounce back, whenever that may be, so doing everything reasonably possible to help them through makes economic sense.
Protect and survive are the watchwords. Everything depends on winning the battle over coronavirus as rapidly as possible, which is why we are now at a dangerous point in which people are yearning for release, and yet moving too fast – something which might only become apparent in hindsight – could result in a heavy setback.
For the sake of the economy, we need to be in a hurry to come through this. But the paradox is that, to do so successfully, we shall need patience and endurance.