The UK Government’s approach to suppressing COVID-19 risks becoming the worst of all possible worlds. Partial measures to half-close the hospitality and other sectors without providing sufficient financial support to the businesses in them will not suppress the rate of infection sufficiently to cut the death rate and protect the NHS, but will almost certainly lead many businesses to close and workers to lose their jobs.
As both SAGE and The Lancet have said, short but deep ‘circuit breaker’ lockdowns are the only way to rapidly reduce the R rate to a level which can then allow the economy and social life to open up again. But they must be accompanied by the generous furlough and business support schemes for which the Chancellor was rightly praised in the spring. Support to the self-employed and those on Universal Credit also needs to be increased.
Yes, this will cost the Treasury money. But, as in times of war, there is no effective economic limit on crisis spending: debt can be absorbed now by the Bank of England and paid back over 25 years or more.
Over the medium term there is no real trade-off between public health and the economy. Only by suppressing the virus will the economy be able properly to reopen. This is likely to require periodic circuit breaker lockdowns; but with sufficient Treasury support those will almost certainly cause less economic and mental hardship than permanent half-measures. Ultimately, exiting this destructive cycle requires a functioning test and trace system, with local health teams, rather than private and centralised companies, in charge.
From coronation budgets to secretive government units, journalists have used the Freedom of Information Act to expose corruption and incompetence in high places. Tony Blair regrets ever giving us this right. Today's UK government is giving fewer and fewer transparency responses, and doing it more slowly. But would better transparency give us better government? And how can we get it?
Join our experts for a free live discussion at 5pm UK time on 15 June.
Claire Miller Data journalism and FOI expert Martin Rosenbaum Author of ‘Freedom of Information: A Practical Guidebook’; former BBC political journalist Jenna Corderoy Investigative reporter at openDemocracy and visiting lecturer at City University, London Chair: Ramzy Alwakeel Head of news at openDemocracy
CommentsWe encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.