Premature easing of lockdown restrictions could prove to be more costly for the UK economy in the long run.
US President Donald Trump recently stated, “We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem.” This sentiment has been echoed by experts around the world as countries worry about how to juggle the saving of people’s lives and the saving of people’s livelihoods. This debate is also a significant as the UK government tries to determine the best way and time to release the country from a lockdown put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
While UK Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove is arguing for an early reopening of the UK economy, others like Health Secretary Matt Hancock are in favor of a longer lockdown.
Hancock’s argument is in line with the opinion of experts at Irvine Humphries Global who say the salvation of the economy is mutually compatible with the implementation of the lockdown.
Debate over reopening economy
A recent paper published by Imperial College London analyses the cost to the economy in four different scenarios. It looks at the cost of lost lives, the cost of lost workdays, the cost of medical treatment for a higher number of sick people and the economic cost of social distancing.
Although policymakers are concerned that there may not be much of an economy left to restart after lockdown, experts argue that a knee jerk reaction to what many believe is a worst-case scenario for the economy will not make for good policy. The supposition that the economy would be fine if the lockdown were lifted is a flawed one.
Irvine Humphries Global says early lifting of lockdown could do more harm
Not only would a premature reopening of the economy reinforce levels of inequality between those who can survive at home and those who would be forced to return to work.
Even more devastating to the economy than a prolonged lockdown period would be a series of re-openings and subsequent lockdowns that could be brought about by a highly likely second wave of infection.
The conclusion drawn from the paper by Imperial College London is one that is difficult to argue with. The option that will cost the UK economy the least is the one that prioritizes strong suppression. This will save lives, medical expenses and reduce the economic cost of social distancing over the course of the epidemic.
Although the cost of continuing with the lockdown comes with uncomfortably high economic expense at this point, it must be seen as a way of safeguarding the UK economy in the future.
This time should be well used to put systems in place that will keep the infection suppressed in the future. The most important thing for the economy is to defeat the coronavirus and ensure that it remains defeated.