Backbench Conservative MPs have begun to speak out about the length of the UK’s coronavirus lockdown, warning that prolonged social distancing measures will have irreparable damage on the economy.
Several Tory MPs raised concerns about the prolonged lockdown in a Westminster select committee hearing this morning, with one warning that many businesses are “on the verge of bankruptcy”.
The 1922 committee, a meeting of all Tory backbenchers, met last night with many airing their concerns about the economic impact of the lockdown.
One backbencher told the BBC that the government had achieved its goal of protecting the NHS from being overburdened and that social distancing should be eased next month.
“If we don’t do that, we really will see thousands of businesses go under,” they said.
Chief medical officer Chris Whitty said yesterday at the daily press conference that people should be prepared for some form of social distancing measures for the rest of the calendar year.
He said the only way out of it was if a widely distributable vaccine or effective drug treatment were available and that there was an “incredibly small probability” of that happening in “the next calendar year”.
Speaking at a hearing of Westminster’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee today, Tory MP Nusrat Ghani voiced her concern at the economic impacts of the lockdown.
“Many businesses feel that they are on the verge of bankruptcy, especially if they lose this summer and obviously people talk about the economic and social impacts but they are both the same,” she said.
Business secretary Alok Sharma said his department, the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, was having discussions with the private sector and other Whitehall teams about how businesses can get back to work.
“We have not shut down the economy,” he said.
“There are millions of people who are working from home, you do have businesses which are open.
“I agree that of course we need to show direction.”
The Times reported today that the government is looking at creating a coronavirus tracking and tracing mobile app so it can ease some restrictions.
Thousands of council staff and civil servants are reportedly being drafted to maintain the system, which could be up and running in three weeks.
The tracing programme would see people alerting a mobile app that they have coronavirus symptoms.
The app would then trace everyone that person has been in contact with and alert them that they have been around someone who may now have Covid-19.
Anyone who receives the app alert would be forced to self-isolate for up to 14 days.
The app would follow the lead of countries such as South Kore and Singapore who managed to control their coronavirus outbreaks through intensive tracking and testing programmes.