T.HE CHURCHILLIAN Rhetoric is back. “Never in our history have our collective fate and health depended so much on our individual behavior,” warns Prime Minister Boris Johnson. So are new statewide restrictions. From September 24th, bars and restaurants will have to close at 10 p.m. More people have to wear masks. Working from home is encouraged. All rules are strictly enforced. Aside from a vaccine or test breakthrough, Johnson said these new restrictions will last six months. Merry Christmas indeed.
Over the summer, the government tried to suppress Covid-1
The new measures have received enthusiastic public support. According to a survey by YouGov, 78% of people think the government is right to introduce them. Many believe that it should go further. Ministers, however, are eager to see the effects of previous restrictions – including the September 14 decision to ban social gatherings of more than six people – before adding more. All in all, things are less urgent than in spring. Cases are growing more slowly, treatment has improved, and while problems persist, at least the test-and-trace system exists.
Trade restrictions are therefore less strict. Non-essential retail stores, bars and restaurants were closed during the initial lockdown. Nevertheless, the companies welcomed the new measures with dismay. Returning from home will particularly affect transportation and hospitality. Retailers fear that visitor numbers will suffer. A ban on multi-household socializing, which both Northern Ireland and Scotland have chosen, will particularly hurt pubs and restaurants.
The government is also striving to minimize the cost of this wave to the public purse. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the two core elements of the government’s economic response have been the employment loyalty program, which pays 80% of wages for workers on leave, and a range of cheap loans to support businesses. Both will be closed over the next few weeks, with the main credit facility closing to new applicants on September 30 and the vacation program ending in October. At the beginning of September there were an estimated 3 million employees in the program. Whitbread, which operates hotels and pubs and has taken advantage of the vacation program on a large scale, announced on Sept. 22 that it would lay off up to 6,000 in the coming weeks.
An announcement to extend the application deadline for the various loan packages was expected on September 23, but those involved in the talks say it has been pushed back as the government wants to announce additional support for jobs at the same time. How The economist At the time of going to press, the Ministry of Finance appeared to be ready to announce a German-style short-time work program in which the government would increase the incomes of employees whose working hours were cut. While the vacation program cost the Treasury Department nearly £ 40 billion between April and mid-September, the bill for such a program would only be hundreds of millions of pounds a month.
Plans for an autumn budget were discarded. Behavioral restrictions and thus also the needs of the economy change so quickly today that long-term planning looks like something from another time.■
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This article appeared in the UK section of the print edition under the headline “Winter Has Come”.