Half a statement

Yesterday the Health Secretary explained the government’s approach to the virus, going a long way to cut contacts between people to slow or prevent contagion. The measures mean the effective closure of a huge part of our economy in sport, leisure, culture, hospitality and transport.

There was no complementary statement from the Chancellor explaining how they will help the many businesses that will struggle as a result. Cash flow dries up with no customers. Many employees will be made redundant, and many businesses will fold.

We need the government to help, to prevent large scale loss of good businesses which will result from this policy. Individuals losing their job or their self employed work will need Income support. I asked about the scheme in yesterday’s blog in the Commons and got various MPs to voice the need for some such relief.

The media are saying we should expect a Statement from the Chancellor today. I hope it includes cash assistance to keep people in work, a business rate tax holiday for larger as well as the smaller businesses in the badly affected sectors, and income help for the self employed facing a big contraction in work and those losing their jobs.

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70 Comments

  1. Ian Wilson
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    I think you make a very valid point . I am becoming concerned that excessively draconian measures may cause more deaths than they save. My gut feel, though lacking expert medical knowledge, is that fit and healthy people would be better able to resist the Covid 19 and any other health threat. Large-scale redundancies and especially those losing businesses they have spent a lifetime building may become so shattered they are more liable to succumb. At the risk of repeating my previous posts, too, has the likely rise in suicides been considered?

    • MPC
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      My gut feel too, without detailed knowledge, is that the employed should have been encouraged to carry on with just the elderly and infirm protected/isolated. Too late now we’re in for very bad and deep recession. Today will probably be the last where my employer expects staffing to come into the office so I will no doubt be somewhat depressed to see many nearby coffee bars and restaurants closed

  2. Iain Gill
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    John,
    Do the politicians realise the magnitude of what Boris announced last night?
    Everyone “entitled to free NHS flu jabs” is now defined as “vulnerable”, that’s
    ALL diabetics, Heart problems, Asthma, Liver problems, Recently pregnant, On blood thinners, Kidney disease, High blood pressure, etc etc
    Last time 25 million people in our population were entitled to free NHS flu jabs. From which you can minus children, but then you must add in again all the children where all of their carers are entitled to free flu jabs.
    25 million is a significant proportion of our population and includes a lot of doctors, nurses, teachers, MP’s etc!
    There is no way schools are going to be able to stay open.
    And lots of people who don’t think of themselves as “vulnerable” are now defined as such and are being told to stay inside their house for 12 weeks starting Friday. Many of which will need help getting food & medicine.
    This is going to put a big burden on the rest of the population.
    Wow

    https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

    • Iain Gill
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      indeed they are going to have to ask recently retired, or about to retire, docs, nurses, cleaners, cops, etc to come back to work. there simply wont be the numbers otherwise.

      as for keeping schools open, no chance, stop that silly idea.

    • Stred
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      It’s isolate or many will need hospital treatment which will not be available. They are allowed to isolate in their car and go to shops to queue for essentials, avoiding contact with contaminated surfaces and presumably washing themselves and what they have bought. Having tried this, it’s difficult.

    • Ronald Olden
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:54 am | Permalink

      No one is being TOLD to self isolate. People who are assessed as being at highest risk are being ADVISED to self isolate. No one is being forced to.

      The common sense thing to do with all this is for those at least risk to go about their business and gain exposure to the virus as quickly as possible, and those at higher risk maintain a degree of isolation appropriate to their individual degree of risk.

      We will all benefit in the long run from children spreading the virus to their healthy parents whilst keeping older grandparents, and great grandparents away from them for the time being.

      Nearly all of us are going to be exposed to the virus eventually but we need to manage the speed at which it happens and who gets it any any one time, so that the medical services can cope.

      If this is handled right (which is is being) I doubt if the combined numbers of deaths from this in the UK will much exceed the number of flu deaths alone we’ve seen in some years in recent decades.

      • Iain Gill
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        poor understanding of the science here.

        I have used my science education today and read a lot of the research.

        “those at least risk to go about their business and gain exposure to the virus” is not correct, they will spread it to one of the many categories of vulnerable people and there will not be capacity in the health system to look after them

    • davews
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      And all over 65 are eligible for free flu jabs. That statement is ludicrous, it says nothing about the health of the individual.
      I worry about the suicide rate. As a very healthy 70 year old who lives alone going out, meeting people, and getting plenty of exercise is a crucial part of my daily life. I cannot imagine having to be penned in all day and getting a friend to get my shopping (who presumably then has to leave it on the doorstep rather than coming in for a chat).
      Very soon we will have the situation where we cannot maintain staffing of supermarkets, their supply chain, and continuity of power and broadband/telephone networks. Then the country is effectively dead. I can cope with the virus but I cannot cope with a vegetable life.

    • a-tracy
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      Iain, will all of our MPs salaries and all those in the public sector get full pay during this self-isolation phase and for three months, if so we’re not all in this together are we?

      Why should taxes prop up one sector full pay whilst the private sector wither and die, who is then going to pay in the taxes to prop up their sick pay, pensions etc. How can they put up Council tax to people whose wages have gone down to £95 per week or less, will the public sector be standing people down, laying people off, giving them shorter working hours to reduce their costs or just continue funding at will?

      People at University will their 3rd tremester tuition fees be refunded if the Universities are closed? Will the government stop the ridiculous 6% interest on student loans accruing as a gesture of goodwill?

      • Iain Gill
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        yep I agree entirely.

        freelancers who depend on moving around to win and do work are going to have big problems.

        I note lots of the public sector are at home on full pay.

        This is going to cause massive friction.

        • a-tracy
          Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

          I’m sick of hearing the I’m all right Jack people, “I’m on full pay whilst I’m isolating”. They can make a completely different set of decisions than those terrified of being laid off and just who is guaranteeing their full pay when tax revenues drop through the floor, they’ll bring the whole stack of cards over.

      • Matt
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        The students won’t be earning enough to pay the debt back anyway. Most will never earn anything at all now.

        • a-tracy
          Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

          All of my children are paying their student debt back Matt, one will be paid off completely soon. But you are correct one has been pushed out of working and won’t be able to keep up repayments whilst the interest is accruing at an abominable rate, it is psychologically damaging.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      I should add that in addition all pregnant or potentially pregnant people are being told to stay home for 12 weeks too, again thats a large number of teachers, nurses etc.

      PM needs to actively invite recently retired docs & nurses back to work, there is no other way…

  3. DOMINIC
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    A cowardly political act that bends to the will of the powerful unionised, leftist public sector. It’s been the Tory way since 1990. For governments since 1990 the private sector exists for one purpose, to abuse it for tax to finance political spending.

    • Martin in Cardiff
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      If you hate the public sector so much, then I trust that you will refuse its help if offered, should you experience breathing difficulty at some time?

      • MG
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

        I didnt detect Dominic hating the Public sector, I did detect that he didnt like the way the goverments have treated the Private sector, I would have thought he is entitled to his opinion ?

      • Fred H
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

        you get sillier by the day…..get a grip man. Isn’t your spleen vented yet?

      • czerwonadupa
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

        Why? He’s paid enough into. And why do you think the NHS should be beyond criticism?

      • czerwonadupa
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        2018/19 from a budget of £129 billion the NHS paid out £2.36 billion in negligence claims.
        As somene whose son’s life was saved by a fast response unit (in spite of the 999 operators being on strike that day) I can appreciate the good work they do. I can also see the other side after my wife was left in the hands of a trainee who proceeded to bodge up the end of her operation with the result she was left with a stoma bag which was never mentioned as a possibility any time before the operation. 6 months later the consultant finished the job himself to make sure there was no more bodging when removing the bag & reconnecting the tubes as they should have been done the first time.

    • Steve Reay
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      The government needs to understand that good hand hygiene goes a long way to stopping this virus. Two supermarkets had no hand soap this morning. If we can’t get the basics right like making soap available then this battle with this virus will take longer. Will sir John take this issue up with the government ASAP.

      Reply The government is in regular discussion with supermarkets about supply issues. All agree we need a good supply of soaps and gels, but saying so does not deliver them to Tesco. They are working on it. People are now hoarding which is causing the problem.

      • William Long
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

        Reply to Reply:
        It is very apparent that hoarding is causing a problem, but I find myself as aseptenarian looking after a wife with Alzheimers, now sitting down to work out what I think I will need to buy, on what I plan to be my last physical visit to a suprmarket for an unforeseeable period. It will have to last me the two or three weeks before I can be sure of a delivery slot, so I am afraid that quite a degree of stockpiling is inevitable.

      • CvM
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

        Cannot the government issue some decree or similar to prohibit the utterly selfish act of hoarding?

  4. formula57
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    The Health Secretary’s statement was itself but half the story alas, now the Government has realized (outrageously late and negligently) “containment” does not work, rather “suppression” is needed.

    Given that policy change and the advice to avoid social contact, how is it proper for schools to remain open? Official advice to teachers is to send home once identified those students exhibiting symptoms – and carry-on until the next one is noticed (whilst they remain well enough themselves to teach presumably)! Does the Government know how that will end?

  5. Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Please keep pressing this issue. Time is of the essence. In my workplace remote working is not possible, but last week we felt the business would be quite resilient. It doesn’t look it any more. Staff – with mortgages, Council Tax, and household bills to pay – are now terrified about layoffs, even temporary ones, at a time when no-one else is hiring.

    Reply I am!

  6. Dave Andrews
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Why O why were the airports not closed earlier? To save the airline companies? Now they are going bust anyway through lack of customers.
    When you have a flood, you fix the leak then mop the floors. You don’t employ more mops whilst the leak gets worse.

  7. Alan Jutson
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    Recent events just shows how fragile our existing way of life and economy really has become, with all parts interconnected, and reliant upon a continuous spend, with little room or margins for calculation error, and virtually nothing set aside for those rainy day type of problems.

    Rather worrying that so many people and businesses are in such a fragile financial state so soon, into what will be inevitably a long haul slog to eventual recovery.

    • Matt
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Money in the bank ?

      Well that can shrink away over night.

      We’re ALL in a fragile state.

  8. oldtimer
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    The implications of what is now happening to the economy will be profound and as unforeseeable as the progress of Covid-19 itself. The difference will be the deaths of businesses rather than of people. It seems to me that economic recovery will be erratic rather than swift, depending on the damage (some terminal) done to different parts of the economy. Consumer and business behaviour will change partly as new habits emerge and partly as new supply chains are created.

  9. Ronald Olden
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    The Chancellor’s hoping to make this statement today. I hope he’ll make a similar statement on the same day every week and more often if required. It can be done at the coronavirus update press conferences, accompanied by the Governor of the Bank of England.

    What is and isn’t required will change from week to week, as as and when circumstances require.

    So far the UK is playing an economic blinder in this and, and relative to the stage we are at, has been well ahead the global economic response curve. The measures that Sunak and the Bank of England look on Budget day were bang on.

    Now more is needed. It’s easy for the Government to help with business cash flow. It can defer VAT, Employers NIC, and Business Rates Payments, and where appropriate give holidays from them.

    It can refund some of the previous years’ Business Rates Payments as one off grants, and it can suspend Corporation Tax payments where the company thinks it’s going from taxable profit into a steep loss.

    The Bank of England also has it in its’ power to cut interest rates to zero, and to get into the Corporate Bond Market, buying Bonds with more QE money. In extremis, it can also use QE money to buy emergency share issues in companies where the company is running out of cash, and when its all over sell them, the way they did with the banks.

    The upshot of all this, is that this is the SECOND time in 12 years where having our own currency and Central Bank will have saved from a potential economic disaster comparable withe Great Depression. The Bank of England has complete control over monetary policy and can print unlimited sums of money at the drop of a hat.

    I would like to hear some apology from the politically motivated morons who abused us all for opposing their insane plans to join the Euro. But the silence is deafening.

  10. Stred
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    Why are schools and universities not closing when they are obviously going to be prime sources of infection but pubs and restaurants effectively shut down? Staff at the former will be paid but the businesses will get very little and late, if anything.

  11. jerry
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Four words – The economy can wait.

    To all those who keep bleating, capitalism will still be there once the world has come out the other side of this pandemic, yes it might have fallen into recession, even a depression, but modern capitalism survived two world wars, the 1919 pandemic, and the Great Depression of 1929.

    Now to our hosts comments, yes both the No.10 briefing and the Health Secretary’s statement was a glass half empty, not even a holding statement from the Chancellor. People need to know that they can cut down their business activities, might I again suggest that the Govt postpones payments of UBR and CT, might I suggest an emergency law that stops utilities and telecoms from sending out bills or demanding those already sent be paid this Quarter, worse cutting off a service that might have become a lifeline.

    Some people might not like it but we need instructions, not advice, but those instructions need to be based on sound workable policies – why just advise people not to use pubs for example, why not just close all pubs, bars & clubs etc, leaving such venues in limbo is sending mixed message to those who still believe this is ‘just Flu’ or they are in an age group who can’t die from Covid-19, it leave the venues in limbo unable to claim on insurance or obtain direct govt support.

  12. Javelin
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Because the Government are only “suggesting” businesses don’t shut down to save on insurance claims then you will see business fighting back against the Government and stay open.

    This will create a very public open warfare between business and the Government that will eventually spread through the whole of society between people who want to keep their job and home and those who want to isolate and get paid by the Government.

    It’s like the capitalist vs socialist models are being brought into absolute contrast.

    • Newmania
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      There is nowhere to make this claim. It is a myth

      • Narrow Shoulders
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

        Agreed the notifiable diseases are listed in most interruption policies so this will be excluded.

    • Tim Chick
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      You can already see that the insurance industry is ‘washing its hands’. The Association of British Insurers have said in a statement that standard business interruption insurance would not cover forced closure by the Government. It is only intended to respond to physical damage causing inability to trade, unless you have purchased an extension to cover closure due to infectious diseases.

      Talk about wriggling out of their responsibilities.

      Then there are the banks. it was reported that a few lenders have raised their mortgage interest rate!

      We really are all in this situation together and the Government must put the ordinary citizen first and tell these financial institutions and indeed other businesses such as supermarkets that profiteering off the back of this national emergency would incur such retribution as they have not seen before and that it would include the directors personally particularly those on the telephone number salaries and bonuses.

      The game has changed fundamentally.

  13. Fred H
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Several million people will be far more concerned about their livelihood than their risk of catching the virus.
    OTT will be how they see the latest steps.
    Others will wonder how they will get essential food etc — the lemmings rush to stock up for months and selfishly deprive the less fortunate.

  14. Alan Jutson
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    I think our New Chancellor is making a statement today about new proposals and the financial implications of such.

  15. Newmania
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    It stated ,as if a fact , on many occasion,this morning, that if the government were to enforce closure of pubs clubs and restaurants they would have recourse to their insurers. Not so.
    There may be a case to answer where wordings have been drafted carelessly . In almost all cases, however, Con Loss follows defined perils and if there is an infectious diseases extension the diseases are defined and do not contain this one.
    The Insurance industry cannot bail out a generalised catastrophe and even if it did it would only transfer the suffering onto the employees of the now bankrupt insuring entities.
    There is, once again, no magic money tree. John Redwood take note .
    PS
    Why are the schools still open ? What is the point of any measure if we continue to ensure everyone is infected as soon as possible ?

  16. Javelin
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    If you are vunerable stay indoors. If you are not vunerable carry on as usual.

    If you are vunerable and go out and catch the virus then take the co sequences.

    Why is Boris bombing us back to the stone age because nature is doing its thing. We’re supposed to be living in a civilisation not like animals cowering in caves.

    • Matt
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      +1

      We are yet to see that Italy is now third world and its people about to starve.

      Targeted, discriminatory, RUDE isolation.

      We are going back to the stone age rather than do or say anything which offends people. Which is why we have the virus in the first place !

      • Martin in Cardiff
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Italy has turned this round, with fewer cases each day now according to Corriere della Sera.

        China has returned to near-normality.

        We are told that this could go on for 18 months and with hundreds of thousands of fatalities on the other hand.

        The worst of all worlds, in other words.

        • Edward2
          Posted March 18, 2020 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          For all we know China and Italy could see new outbreaks in these original areas or in other areas.
          I hope that doesn’t happen but your bold claim they have a situation of near normality is premature.

  17. wab
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Hopefully the government is spending 100% of its time addressing the coronavirus issue and 0% of the time on Brexit (which has already left our economy in a weakened state, even though it has not happened yet). The lives of tens of thousands of people are at stake (especially Brexiters, who tend to be old). And hopefully MPs are focussing 100% on addressing the coronavirus issue and 0% of the time whining about BBC interviews and other trivialities.

    • Fred H
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      what’s Brexit?

  18. Ian @Barkham
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Sir John

    2 points: Wokingham Station 7:00 am this morning just before the Waterloo trains arrival deserted. People have received the message.

    While we have great expectations from Government. There must the perspective the UK Government and the UK taxpayer is not wholly responsible for the situation we find our selves in. They neither invited it or caused it.

    It is easy to understand the desire for help and consideration for all those engaged in creating the UK’s economy. But you have to counter and measure what should be the taxpayers burden. If the taxpayer ‘GIVES’ money to large corporations so they keep people employed while at the same time funding investor dividends. That come over as an imbalance.

    We are either ‘ALL’ in this together or we or not. Logically no single entity has preference over the whole. The taxpayer in the UK funds infrastructure, services, health and so on as the backup plan in an emergency. And, almost anyone can profit from that without ever contributing to it.

    Therefore the large cooperation should be on the same level playing field, if they enjoy the facilities, earn from Societies investment they have no right to any giveaway form the taxpayer especially if they did not contribute in the same way to the same degree.

    We all pay more tax than we should because it is disproportionate in how it is applied. Legal loopholes, domiciled outside the country for tax and so should automatically dismiss any consideration from the UK taxpayer. Asking for handouts from the taxpayer must be reciprocated with an equal share of their business for the taxpayer going forward.

    There is to much ‘Ponzi’ style financing by Government with taxpayer money that just keeps on an unnecessary downward spiral. At least with the Bank bailout there was a modicum of direct return for the taxpayer.

    Reply The scheme I proposed would only be paid to loss making businesses who would not be permitted to pay any dividends or bonuses when in receipt of state survival cash.

    • Richard1
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely, no dividends or bonuses whilst in receipt of state survival funds. but there needs to be a cap on salaries as well. Small companies are looking at big temporary salary cuts for higher paid people whilst this is going on. the govt needs to make this a condition of state funds. cant be bailing our a business where the CEO is on a fixed salary of £1m pa (or more in many cases). Apart from anything else this would make sure no-one asks for money unless they really need it.

      And I hope it doesn’t need saying, loans from the govt not equity or grants please. lets not have another Gordon Brown save the world nationalisation at artificial prices!

      the entire private sector is going to be hammered. so lets have a salary cap in the state sector also while this is going on. £100k pa max.

    • Ian @Barkham
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply. While I accept your reasoning a more ‘quid pro quo’ basis with the taxpayer having partial ownership. So many times taxpayer bail outs are miss used and miss placed by the entrepreneurial spirit in a few. It then creates a mockery of a well meant concept.

      A recent illustration of the creative process was the original Flybee bailout. The new owners effectively asset stripped the business with everything bar the employees being transferred out the business. So once more we finished up with a sort of taxpayer bailout while someone else owned all the assets. The shareholders didn’t lose when it finally went down the pan – the taxpayer did.

      It about getting others to take and share both the benefit and loss when things go pear shape. While the taxpayer is by nature able to help, they shouldn’t based on previous experiences get kicked in the teeth as a soft touch.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      Like the banks who continued to pay obscene bonuses to secure talent?

      Taxpayer funds will be required but there must be a covenant that future profits go to rebuilding businesses not to shareholders and management bonuses.

      Shareholders have in effect lost their shares as those businesses are bust. If the government is putting money into businesses it should take a charge or a stake.

      • CvM
        Posted March 17, 2020 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

        While I agree with a lot of the sentiment many shareholders are pension funds looking after a lot of peoples pensions. Not necessarily good that they take a big hit. How to find the right balance and make sure a few individuals don’t profit?

  19. agricola
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I try to look at the impact on business in an impassionate way. Unless and until Government offers a solution those who run businesses large and small are forced into making harsh redundancy decisions. They cannot print money, they have no options. This will have two results. First their will be a vast bill in support payments to those out of work. Second , when recovery time is nigh there will be few people around to restart businesses and an added cost of finding them.

    My solution is to keep everyone on the payroll and government to supply the necessary cash to all businesses, even if it necessitates printing the money. Government has been doing it to satisfy its own needs for years, extend the principal to business at zero interest rates. Without such a move the whole economy begins to unravel in an accelerating way. I accept that it is revolutionary, but elucidate an alternative strategy that is simple and gets the desired result.

    For those who are self employed we need a parallel system that keeps them afloat until they can return to normal activity.

    Such a scheme should run until the impact of coronavirus dissipates, timing will vary from company to company. Don’t ask me to say how long because no timescale has been ventured on the life of this pandemic. Look upon money as the lubricant, if you cut it off the engine seizes.

    • agricola
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

      While my thoughts await moderation I see that the Donald and his team are on the move along the general lines I have suggested. I await the UK governments plan for business survival and that of all the people they employ. Do not hang about, do it now.

  20. glen cullen
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    To calm the markets and settle business concerns the government should employ and mobilise the whole military to test people, sectors at risk and hot spots

    The only way this will now be resolved is by understanding the extent of the problem ie the spread of the virus

    Reply The government is short of tests and is trying to procure more.

  21. forthurst
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    South Korea learned lessons from the MERS outbreak; they have applied those lessons to controlling the Covid-19 outbreak in their country. Their government’s popularity ratings have increased. Although, testing reveals many more cases, it is also vital in order to curtail the spread hence an emphasis by South Korea on a massive testing programme including random testing.

    Why when there is already at least one country which has an affirmative testing programme with a determination to understand how the contagion has been spreading and to eliminate clusters, do we have to listen to drivel about herd immunity and the closing down of the whole economy irrespective of local infection rates? There will never be any end to the infection in this country when people with mild symptoms are wondering around oblivious to the fact that they are spreading the virus to many other people.

    This episode is giving insight into why a bunch of arts graduates from Oxford (not JR) are incapable of taking correct decisions on anything; they simply haven’t been taught how to think and may not even have the capacity to do so. All they can do is regurgitate what someone else wrote or said.

    • forthurst
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Only an Arts graduate would imagine that Rolls-Royce or JCB should be encouraged to make ventilators. Did they just think of major British manufacturers and nothing else? Do they even know what other pertinent questions should be considered? Where is the similarity of product, material, process or volume? There is none.

  22. bill brown
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Sir JR

    Keep pushing the government is too slow and should have been out with solutions a week or more ago on the economic front and with a scale that is worth looking at , of at least 3% or more of GDP

  23. Matt
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    I had hoped the Boomers would have gone to ground for a while to leave the rest of us to keep the economy on life support for a while so that:

    A) there were ventilators still left for little Jodie struck by a car (which is still going to happen despite CV)

    B) the shops and pubs could be left open so that there’s something left of British culture for them to emerge to.

    All we asked was for them to hunker down for a few months. After all, very few of them had to experience war and all that would be needed of them was to do the sheltering bit, not go over the top of a trench with a rifle.

    Alas. They are out in force, walking in big groups, gallows humour (denial) “Don’t worry about us ! We’ll be aaalreeet !” Ho ho ho and off they merrily go. Many of them won’t be alright. Few will be so brave when they’re blue in the face on a trolley or left outside of casualty and their kids will demand their time on the ventilator.

    But now this country (which refuses discrimination of any kind and which, face it, is why we have this outbreak in the first place) is now about to put EVERYONE in lockdown.

    I am about to go on a two day week and then … well, who knows. We’re really not geared up for this. For something that will for most be like a bad cold. The local businesses will have to fold then – boarded up shops and closed pubs – forever, the precincts left to marauding gangs.

    To save and not offend the boomers.

    We are too childish to admit we are at war. Too squeamish make targetted sacrifices and to accept casualties, so a zero fatality rate must be striven for at all cost including the very cost of our civilisation.

    The government have caved.

    Within weeks this country (as well as all of those which have done similar) is about to become third world with privations far worse than the 1920s depression which is going to kill millions.

    What no-one is telling you is that Italy is now third world. We are yet to see the starvation yet we are now following them. FOOLS !

    We could have avoided this.

    There is far FAR more to fear from the looming economic depression than there is the disease.

    • Matt
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

      Targetted isolation. The Boomers have to be shamed into it I’m afraid.

      Let the 80% get on with keeping the country alive. Otherwise we are all ‘dead’ in effect. Or might as well be.

  24. Iain Gill
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I hear NHS 111 phone number is swamped. People cannot actually get through.

    There needs to be a national plan
    1 email addresses that actually get answered by a medic
    2 skype etc appointments, how to do it on every GP website
    3 get large numbers of the newly unemployed in to help staff the 111 call centres

    etc

    • forthurst
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      I read in my local paper that someone who worked in an office in a shared building had had a positive test for Covid-19. What happened then? The management informed the staff by email to attend a meeting at midday the following day when they were told that leaving work to self-isolate would be a disciplinary matter and that the staff who were complaining of a cough or temperature of which there were some would not be considered sick unless they had both symptoms.

      Now what should have happened? The first case should have triggered a mandatory response to test, trace and isolate contacts of that case. It should not be a matter for an employer to decide how to implement public health policy by default. As it is there could be dozens of people walking around who are infected because of a totally inadequate response to the first case. Unless there is a radical change in direction by the government this is going to be a massive pandemic that infects a high proportion of the population and do untold damage to the economy.

  25. Iain Gill
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    deary me 3 of the 4 national mobile phone networks have gone down, as they cannot cope with the number of people working from home

    this whole situation needs to really be run like we are fighting battles on multiple fronts

  26. Sakara Gold
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    The government it today trying to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. Bans on travelling to countries affected by the Chinese virus, checking arrival’s travel history, temperature and quarantining suspicious travellers should all have been implemented months ago.

    The failure to do so now results in our seniors being isolated and locked down for at least three months. The ” herd immunity” theory appears to have been devised by a committee of civil servants to facilitate a mass culling of the population, forecasts of 250,000 deaths would approach the losses suffered by the nation during WW2. That will look really good in the history books….

    Once again, I suggest that the government call in proper specialist experts with experience of the SARS epidemic from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and especially South Korea. These countries are beating the epidemic using mass testing and technology to identify virus hotspots and by enforcing quarantine for those who test positive and their contacts.

    The British public is not allowed to see where our cases are worst, to give them a fighting chance of avoiding

  27. Helen Smith
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Sir John, many workers in the hospitality industry will be on short time or laid off, including chefs, bakers, sous chefs etc., they are well versed in food hygiene, could they be used to provide bank staff for food companies and large scale bakeries which will at some point have staff off, in order to keep food production at normal levels?

  28. Norman
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    There is surely a right way through this, without destroying the economy. I felt that Boris and his front-runners did a petty good job initially, but we now seem to be heading towards virtual lock-down. The reality is, that no health service can have sufficient resources to cope with a pandemic, which would lie redundant for years on end – a luxury few nations can afford. Contingency planning for rapid up-scaling, yes, that’s a very different matter.
    This is becoming a ‘world-war’ situation, due as much to our over-reactions, as to the disease itself (serious though that is). How do we delay the incidence peak, so that the NHS can cope, but without bringing everything to a standstill? Sooner or later, the general population must be vaccinated – either through natural infection or artificially. Meanwhile, the specially vulnerable need to avoid infection as far as possible (through self-isolation and social distancing). Supermarkets’ efforts to maximize their home delivery services, and local charitable efforts to distribute to vulnerable housebound neighbours are going to be vital. BUT DON’T SHUT EVERYTHING DOWN TOO MUCH, OR TOO LONG!

  29. DaveK
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Sir John,

    I know you don’t do links etc. However there does seem to be some encouraging news with respect to chloroquine phosphate, Favilavir and remdesivir.

    • Helen Smith
      Posted March 17, 2020 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      Indeed there does, particularly Chloroquine which the Uk Government wisely prohibited export of back in February. I would love some good news from Boris regarding this.

  30. a-tracy
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    The Chancellors statement didn’t answer my concerns:
    a) SSP goes up in April to £95.85 per week, very low until you have to pay it for every worker you have with no turnover coming in, plus every 9th day a days sick holiday pay is accrued so an extra £8.72 x 8 = £69.76 on minimum wage, for people on £23,000k an extra £88.46. But these employees may not be sick just now told by our government to self-isolate. Now the government has said it will cover this SSP for two weeks (not the sick holiday payment) what about the other 10 weeks people are being told to self-isolate or through close downs is the statutory payment going to be covered? It’s alright saying you’re going to protect the airlines and large manufacturers and pubs now with business rate relief but what’s going to happen when tonnes of small businesses close down?

  31. Jonathan Tee
    Posted March 17, 2020 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Sir John for the efforts you have made in this area which appear to have had a positive effect on HMG policy. I don’t work in the SME sector but I really value the contribution they make and I was very concerned that businesses I have come to trust and frequent would be destroyed through no fault of their own. I’m pleased to hear the latest annoucements from the Treasury , a sharing of the burden but not a passing of the burden – that seems proper. Thank you once again, you and your colleagues have made a big difference.

  32. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted March 18, 2020 at 12:00 am | Permalink

    Update on Coronavirus

    What fascinates me are the sharp differences by country in the number of deaths as a % of known cases:
    – China 4%
    – Italy 8%
    – Iran 6%
    – Spain 3%
    – South Korea 1%
    – Germany 0%
    – France 2%
    – US 2%
    – Switzerland 1%
    – UK 4%

    Demographic profile is part of the answer; Italy has a lot of old people. But so do Germany, France and UK. In UK, with inadequate testing capacity, the number of cases may be higher. Another factor is whether there are enough ventilators and ICU beds.

    I think that the UK must follow through rapidly with more testing but above all more ICU beds and ventilators. That’s the way to cut down the deaths. There is no way we can stop the epidemic, only its rate of development.

    The Chancellor’s statement promises to increase virus related grants to £20 billion and soft loans etc to a whopping £330 billion. Not all of these loans are by the UK State but all will be underwritten by it. Businesses and individuals receiving soft loans and mortgages have to pay them back after several months with low or zero income. Then there’s two other problems (1) How rapidly can the loans be deployed? and (2) It’s easier to lend to businesses than individuals.

    A fair proportion of businesses receiving these loans will throw in the towel and claim insolvency, leaving HM Treasury with bad loans on its hands. If 10% of the £330 billion are bad loans, then the total cost to the State will be £20 bn + £33 bn = £53 bn. Gulp!!

  33. .
    Posted March 22, 2020 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    American country music legend Kenny Rogers has died aged 81.

    A family representative said he “passed away peacefully at home from natural causes”.

    Rogers topped pop and country charts during the 1970s and 1980s, and won three
    Grammy awards.

    Known for his husky voice and ballads including The Gambler, Lucille and Coward Of The County, his career spanned more than six decades.

    He once summed up his popularity by explaining that he believed his songs “say what every man wants to say and that every woman wants to hear”.

    After growing up in poverty on a federal housing estate in Houston,
    Texas, Rogers began recording. with
    a string of bands, including Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, before launching
    his solo career in 1976.

    Kenny Rogers prepares to hang up his microphone
    He was never a favourite of music critics, but became one of the most
    successful pop-country crossover acts of all time,
    and the 10th best-selling male artist in US history in terms of
    album sales.

    He collaborated with other country music legends during his career, including Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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