Lockdown – reflections at the end of week 12
This week has shown us just how much we have adapted to the current version of normal.
Announcements which have increased options for socialising and which will enable shops of all descriptions to open next week have been met with a positive but muted response. Similarly, announcements of a U-turn on schools, the commencement of the requirement for those coming into the country to self-isolate, more administrations, closures and job losses in the retail and hospitality sectors and even the announcement this morning of a 20.4% drop in GDP in April combined with the OECD’s projection of an annual GDP drop of 11.5% seem to have been met with a resigned shrug of the shoulders.
We are expecting a significant announcement on the furlough scheme today which will be of great importance to many and which should stand out from the general torpor. The Chancellor has not been short of advice from all quarters but it is likely that the announcement will provide detail in terms of employer and government contributions and part time furloughing. It may go further and map out the duration of the scheme and signpost future changes. The scheme will be an important bridge between the direct financial support that government has provided to businesses and future support which is more likely to take the form of fiscal stimulus.
Perhaps the general sense of ennui comes because the novelty has worn off. Zoom calls, which were not a commonplace part of many of our lives before the lockdown, no longer feel clever and exciting. The thrill of losing the daily commute has given way to a form of cabin fever. The pleasure of having the company of your dog whilst you work has been tempered by its insistence on making an appearance in your Zoom calls.
On a more serious note, although people are still contracting Covid-19 and there are many Covid related deaths on a daily basis, those figures are not reported on at the top of news bulletins and so the perception of crisis has, for the many in the population who have not experienced bereavement close at hand has become lost. It hasn’t helped that the government has not been good at explaining some of its decisions, distancing at two metres rather than one and why wait until now to require the wearing of face masks on public transport being recent examples. Whilst calm resignation and broad compliance are not bad qualities during times of crisis, the economy will need an energised response to achieve any form of bounceback rather than one of sluggish apprehension. To that end, a stronger promotion of a more detailed recovery programme by the government becomes of major importance as a framework and timeline for businesses to plan for the short and medium term.