The City’s top economists today toasted the government’s decision to scrap plan B Covid-19 curbs, hailing the move as a sign that Britain’s economy is getting back to being fully operational.
Hope was ignited among experts that the influence Covid-19 and accompanying restrictions on daily life has exerted on the health of the British economy is soon coming to an end.
Matthew Fell, chief policy director at Britain’s top business group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said: “It’s great news that plan B is coming to an end and businesses will be hopeful that we are finally starting to turn the corner on Covid-19.”
“This is an economy that wants to grow and the lifting of these restrictions is a welcome step to helping that to happen,” Roger Barker, director of policy at the Institute of Directors, said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced today that plan B measures, including guidance to work from home, will be ditched in England next Wednesday.
GDP figures for November published by the Office for National Statistics last week revealed the UK economy is now larger than it was before the pandemic struck, underlining the upward trajectory the recovery was on before the imposition of plan B measures in early December.
Although City experts expect December and January’s official GDP readings to dip due to a pull back in consumer confidence amid tighter pandemic measures, most economists are betting on the economy recovering to pre-Omicron levels by March.
Pantheon Macroeconomics, a consultancy, have hiked their forecasts for first quarter GDP growth to 0.2 per cent, up from zero.
However, experts cautioned that future policy decisions on how to deal with Covid-19 need to be guided by consistent principles to allow businesses’ to plan with conviction.
“There’s a vital need now for greater consistency in how we live with the virus in the longer term. Swinging back and forth between restrictions and normality has been damaging,” Fell added.
Mike Cherry, national chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “After two years of chopping and changing, small businesses right across England will be hoping that this marks the beginning of a final winding down of trading restrictions.”
Others pointed to the government’s decision to rapidly roll out boost jabs over the Christmas period as crucial to dampening Omicron’s impact.
“Omicron was a major bump in the road, but England’s strategy of opening up in summer and rolling out boosters in the autumn has been vindicated,” Chris Snowden, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said.