Lock-down? A price worth paying or hysteria?

There has been almost universal support for the lock-down by the political, scientific and journalistic classes. However not everyone agrees.

However, dissenting voices point to the associated extraordinary economic price being paid, relative to the number of lives at risk. What are the consequences of this? Short-term impacts are severe with other important health treatments and research being delayed to (understandably) accommodate the prioritisation of Covid-19 whilst, for many, mental health pressures can be expected to mount, both as a consequence of stress directly from worrying about the virus and consequentially, through the reduction in people’s income.  For business owners, of course, there is the real risk that the investment (of time and capital) made in building up their companies will be put in jeopardy.

Some have mentioned that more people died in the second world war to maintain the liberties we enjoy now than could possibly have died of Covid-19. Of course, that is too simplistic. For starters, there was no 24-hour news or social media that would beam the images of mounting piles of the dead into our handsets. What was politically acceptable in 1940 may well not be the case in 2020.

The UK was under pressure to lock down earlier, with Boris getting a lot of stick for not advancing it and showing “a lack of leadership”. History will of course have a view on what was the most appropriate course of action. For the moment, Sweden is, ironically, “in isolation” as the only party pursuing an alternative course of action, a control if you will. While the rest of Europe locks down its citizens, the Swedes have, thus far, allowed bars, restaurants and schools to remain open.

Trevor Kavanagh has written a comment in the Sun today entitled “Hysteria has forced the UK into lock-down, crashed the economy and will kill more than coronavirus” It offers a different view of which I am sure the majority my well despair but some will applaud. See the attached link for a read.

As I have previously commented, I am very grateful I do not need to make these decisions. The burden of leadership must be almost intolerable at the moment. Balancing the risks of an overwhelmed NHS now and the undoubted uptick in death rate that would arise were serious, but survivable cases to exceed the capacity of ventilators, nurses and facilities, against the social and financial burden of future generations.

As business owners we need to be ready for when we are released to restart the economy and to take brave decisions that will benefit our employees, customers and the economy as a whole. Part of that will be to ensure we have suitable liquidity in our businesses. We are already working with a growing number of businesses to fast-track their CBILS applications and it is really interesting to hear how entrepreneurs are preparing for the short and medium term. One thing is common to all, their desire to get going again ASAP.

Only Sweden bucks the trend. While the rest of Europe incarcerated its citizens, the Swedes allowed bars, restaurants and schools to remain open. It remains to be seen if they will pay a bigger price than next-door Norway, which has locked up the entire population.

By Charles Whelan on 30/03/2020