That the economy has become a sideshow says much about the present condition of Britain.
The possibility of a double-dip recession would be a front-page story at any other moment, but now it’s just a footnote about illness rates, hospitalizations and deaths in the daily news. Last year, there was a discussion on whether the closures were worth the pain, given all the collateral harm – the cancelled cancer procedures, the missed school months for children who can’t afford it, the increased occurrence of domestic violence and mental health concerns, the welfare lines that are continually lengthening. The debate is over now. The danger that the NHS will be overwhelmed has prompted almost as extreme a return to restrictions as those enforced last spring. The state was forced to close schools and order people to stay home after stumbling their way through 2020. Make no mistake, there is an economic cost. Production losses in late 2020 and early 2021 will not be almost as serious as the 25 percent contraction between last year’s February and April, but they will be bad enough.
Companies find their cash reserves exhausted. A third freeze would be one too many for others. Others can only survive if the restrictions introduced this week are reasonably short-lived. Britain was stopped from running out of food by supermarket logistics. Boris Johnson claims that a good vaccination campaign would fix both the health crisis and the economic crisis—and the prime minister is right about that. The government will use it to administer vaccines. Pressure on the NHS will ease once adequate vaccinations have been administered, sanctions will be relaxed, companies will be able to reopen and the economy will recover. The government has made major promises regularly that it has not been able to fulfill.
The Test, Trace and Isolate program fell short of expectations; the Furlough program of Rishi Sunak was supposed to end last October but was extended for a further six months; the Tier scheme was supposed to hold the virus at bay, but a third lockdown is now in England.
It would be entirely reasonable if the public did not have confidence that the government would deliver on its vaccine promises. Outside of wartime, it’s difficult to imagine a government that played with such high stakes – let alone one that seemed so incompetent. It’s a good idea to have regular reports on vaccine numbers, but Johnson should do several other things to get a handle on the situation.
Lloyd George was moved from the Treasury to the Minister of Munitions in 1915 by Prime Minister Herbert Asquith because he realized that it was less necessary to handle the money of the country than to fight on the Western Front.
There is also a good case for making a senior minister in charge of vaccines in the cabinet – Britain could mass-produce the Covid syringe.
A shame that we have ignored our industrial base | Aditya ChakraborttyContinueRead moreIt would be ideal for this minister to have business experience or, if not, to be someone willing to experiment with new ideas.
Despite panic buying last spring, the sophisticated logistics networks of supermarkets kept shelves supplied and stopped Britain from running out of food. Like it does with high street pharmacies, which are due to stock Oxford/vaccine AstraZeneca’s from next week, the government could rely on their capacity to administer the vaccines.
If there is an issue with the shortage of personnel to administer vaccinations, which could well be, the government should cut red tape to make it easier for GPs and nurses to voluntarily come out of retirement – indeed, it has already agreed to increase the number of people who can administer vaccines.
Theaters reduced the number of vacant seats on the days that they were open by encouraging individuals to line up for last-minute return and no-show tickets.
Israel followed the same concept for its vaccine policy, providing waste avoidance vaccines at the end of the day. The government does not seem to be involved in innovation so far, although the way Test and Trace tackles the vulnerabilities of a Bef