A group of City of London grandees have urged the government to ease the coronavirus lockdown amidst fears a prolonged shutdown would “do more harm to people’s health by putting them out of work”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will return to work tomorrow as Downing Street looks to formulate the next phase of its coronavirus strategy.
Calls are beginning to grow louder from Conservative backbenchers and supporters for Johnson to take a more hawkish approach and to ease social distancing restrictions next month.
City figures Michael Spencer, Peter Hargreaves and Sir Henry Angest lent their voices to the charge today.
The trio, all major Tory donors, told the Sunday Times that the Prime Minister must act to open up the economy in order to save businesses and jobs.
It comes as the UK’s official Covid-19 death toll surpassed 20,000 yesterday.
Spencer, the billionaire founder of inter-dealer broker ICAP, said: “We should start loosening up [the lockdown] as soon as we reasonably can and allow the economy to start moving forward.
“We should really begin to offer a narrative of how and when it’s going to stop.”
Peter Hargreaves, co-founder of Hargreaves and Landsdown, added:“[An extended lockdown would] do more harm to people’s health by putting them out of work and ruining their businesses”.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph today, Tory backbencher Liam Fox called for a staggered lockdown to start soon to get some parts of the economy running.
Fox said that studies of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic showed that while countries that enforced lockdown earlier were able to slow the progression of the disease, the overall outcomes “were relatively similar” between countries over time.
“The longer the government is required to open the public coffers to support a ‘sleep mode’ economy the bigger the price for future taxpayers will be,” he said.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said at Wednesday’s press conference that the government will need to enforce some form of social distancing restrictions until a vaccine or “highly effective drugs” are produced.
He said it was very unlikely that this would happen before the end of the year.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, speaking to Sky News today, said it was still too early to discuss ending the lockdown and that people will have to adapt to “a new normal”
Raab said shops and businesses would likely be forced to implement social distancing measures when they re-open.
“It won’t going back, it will be a new normal if you like with social distancing measures adapted to areas which are currently closed off,” Raab said.
“The scientists themselves have said…easing up any of the measures now would be dangerous and irresponsible.
“The more we get the rate of deaths down and the more we get the rate of infections down, the more flexibility we’ll have.”