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Lockdown – reflections at the end of week 13


This week has seen a diverse mixture of news, ranging from a cheap and widely available drug being shown to help with Covid treatment (and it’s not the one that Donald Trump is taking) to the disturbing Covid outbreak in Beijing, and from the eloquence and humility of Marcus Rashford to the dons of Oriel College , Oxford showing themselves to be more accomplished in their appreciation of the ongoing issues around discrimination and equality than the Foreign Secretary.

There has also been a lot of discussion of the new normal and what it will look like. However, after nearly a full quarter year of lockdown, for many the new normal feels like how life is now. Easing of the lockdown has felt like tinkering at the edges rather than significant structural change. A significant number of people are facing a new normal which is bleak and unwelcome, having lost close relatives, their jobs or their business. For many of the rest of us, our ongoing experience of lockdown has elements of Groundhog Day with one day working at home looking like another. The challenge of dealing with the changes which Covid and the lockdown have made and will bring in the future remain relentlessly at the top of the agenda and there is a lurking danger of fatigue which means that steps will be missed and opportunities neglected. So to inform, inflame, encourage or distract, here are a few numbers - shopping heavy given the Prime Minister’s keenness for us to go out and spend

100,000,000; the number of pounds which the Bank of England has announced as the value of its quantitative easing programme to provide economic stimulus. This is clearly a very large number, but then a very large number will be needed to address the depth and suddenness in the drop in GDP. It is encouraging to note that the MPC is of the view that the depth of the recession may be less than originally predicted, but it is still going to be sizeable

612,000 and 126; respectively, the number of people falling off the payroll between March and May and the percentage increase in people claiming work-related benefits in that period. Both figures, which are likely to rise further as the furlough scheme is eased back, illustrate why the quantitative easing programme is being rolled out and why the Prime Minister’s encouragement to go shopping is not going to strike a chord with a large group of our population

4, 44 and 35; speaking of shopping, 4 is the number of distressed clothing businesses bought out of administration by Boohoo in the last 12 months. Last year’s acquisition of Karen Millen and Coast have just been followed by acquisitions of Oasis and Warehouse as online retailer Boohoo goes from strength to strength. However, it is noteworthy that only the online businesses have been bought-an illustration of the continuing problems for high street retail. 44 is the percentage of turnover of high street shops in France post-lockdown measured against pre-lockdown figures and 35 is the percentage of people in the UK who told a recent survey that they are afraid to go out, both numbers emphasizing the challenge ahead not only for the high street but the economy at large

33; the percentage drop in the share price of British Land plc, a significant lessor of retail property and office space, during the last 6 months

454.02; the percentage increase in earnings per share reported by Zoom for the second quarter of 2020 – enough said

2; the number of government u-turns this week-not good at a time when accurate decision making is important

And, on a personal note, 90, 6 and 3; 90 is the grand old age that my father will reach tomorrow, 6 is the size of the gathering which can celebrate it which is much better than it looked a little while ago and 3 is the number of points which Everton will take off Liverpool when my interest in watching football picks up on Sunday.

Have a good weekend as we approach the longest day.

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