You cannot repair the economic damage of coronavirus simply by unlocking

The government have announced that groups will be able to meet outside, but is this too soon and will it really help the economy? 

Sign Up

Get the New Statesman's Morning Call email.

Groups of six will be able to meet outside from Monday, provided they observe social distancing, as the government begins a series of measures to gradually ease the lockdown, including in front and back gardens.

But are we easing too soon? While — the rate of transmission — is below one, it may not be that far below it. It's not clear that the five tests for ending the lockdown have truly been met, or that they can be reliably maintained. 

The latest tests for how many people have actually had coronavirus indicates a death rate of around 1 per cent: more than a quarter of a million people if the disease spread through the population unchecked. 

But for the moment, the cabinet's lockdown doves, who are concerned about the economic impact of the lockdown, are in the ascendancy. 

The problem is, it's far from clear whether you can simply repair the economic damage of the coronavirus recession by formally unlocking. Don't forget that in the UK, as with most other countries in Europe, citizens started voluntarily reducing their social contacts long before they were legally mandated to do so.

The shock to demand, and the consequences for our economy, may linger for a long time — even if the lockdown's easing doesn't cause a second peak in cases.

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

Free trial CSS