Thursday 14 May 2020 3:45 pm

Exclusive: Brits think lockdown measures will hinder economic recovery

Britons think the UK economy will be unable to recover quickly if the coronavirus lockdown measures continue, according to an exclusive poll for City A.M. 

The poll, conducted by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, found that 56 per cent of Britons believe that if the lockdown measures continue, the UK economy will reach a point at which it will no longer be able to recover within six months. 

Read more: Square Mile lockdown: City firms plot staff’s return to work

The UK’s lockdown has been partially eased this week, after the Prime Minister laid out a “roadmap” for the reopening of the economy. 

Non-essential shops could be opened from 1 June, and there are tentative signs the hospitality industry could get back to work from July. However, the conditional plan does little to quell the nerves of business owners who are facing collapse if economic activity remains frozen. A report by City Hall found 23 per cent of London’s businesses won’t last two months of the lockdown. 

Nearly a third of those polled by Redfield and Wilton – 31 per cent – think the sooner the lockdown restrictions end the better the UK economy can recover. A fifth of Brits are more bullish and think the economy will recover however long lockdown lasts. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has already warned that the UK will be plunged into a “significant recession”. Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released yesterday show UK GDP shrunk two per cent in the first quarter. It marked a record 5.8 per cent drop in March, almost entirely due to just over a week of lockdown measures which were implemented on the 23rd. 

GDP is certain to shrink again this quarter, putting the UK on course for its first recession in nearly a decade. 

However, 69 per cent of Brits believe once the threat of coronavirus is reduced, the better the economy can recover. 

There are some glimmers of hope after the first batch of antibody tests from Swiss manufacturer Roche were approved. Boris Johnson has described them as a “game changer” and an important tool in helping people get back to work. 

Listen to our daily City View podcast as we chart the economic fallout and business impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Brits anticipate return to work by summer

But the looming question is how and when Brits will return to work. The government launched its workplace guidance earlier this week but is still encouraging people to work from home where possible. 

Of those who have been able to work from home, 57 per cent expect to be back at work in July, while 14 per cent expect a return after August. 

The UK arms of banks and professional services firms are already drawing up plans to send staff back to the office after lockdown. In an email seen by City A.M., JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon said the bank would reopen offices in phases with staff returning to work in “waves over a period of time.” 

Read more: Coronavirus public transport advice: What do lockdown rules say?

Sixty one per cent of the Brits surveyed said they never or almost never worked from home before the pandemic. Since the lockdown was announced at the end of March, 57 per cent have been able to work from home. 

However, the eight weeks of lockdown may have shifted some companies to adopt a more flexible approach, and a fifth of Brits anticipate working from home indefinitely. 

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