The Prime Minister through his latest statements to Parliament and the public at large, has tried to adopt a middle ground position with lockdown measures. Not going into full lockdown across England, and not letting the virus ‘rip’.
In so doing he could now be accused of trying to please everyone, but in trying to do so pleases no one.
Most noise today criticising the government’s middle ground position is being mustered by Sir Keir Starmer and the Labour Party. The Labour leader and many Labour MPs are now citing three week old advice from Sage (the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) to apply a circuit breaker through another full lockdown.
The cries from the left of centre are calling on government to continue their mantra of ‘following the science’. The cries from the right are saying that the three tier measures taken are too restrictive economically.
The proponents of another full lockdown give most voice to looking back at what the first lockdown achieved in terms of stemming the spread of transmission, and getting the R Number back below 1.
There is general consensus across the political spectrum that the first full lockdown was imposed later than it should have been and as such, delaying a second full lockdown is now meeting with much resistance, at least philosophically. But philosophy doesn’t treat hospital admissions or business failures.
The government however will not want to be seen to be forced into a U-turn by Labour only days after announcing a major policy.
The science from Sage was recommending a circuit breaker three weeks ago, when transmissions were significantly lower than they are today.
It also seems that public opinion now supports the circuit breaker which is probably in part a consequence of the government’s ‘follow the science’ mantra.
The Prime Minister is facing a dilemma of gargantuan proportions. His personal libertarian radar will undoubtedly still point to staying firmly on the middle ground. His scientific advisors, the public and his political opponents are all pointing at going further, and quickly.
The final word on the matter may already have been spoken, as political commentators are saying that Whitehall is already preparing for full lockdown 2. Insiders at Whitehall are reportedly now using the term ‘live’ in conversations on the matter, that translates in everyday language to ‘is already happening’.
For the hospitality industry the 3 tier system seems to offer the government some economic support ‘cover’ by paying less, as unless businesses are forced to close by law, support is complex and limited. For businesses forced to close support is guaranteed.
It may well be that a second full lockdown for hospitality would be better than the middle ground the Prime Minister and The Chancellor seem to favour. All economic support would then be available to all hospitality businesses. The bigger question then is, if the current levels of ‘full economic support’ are sufficient to avoid a flood of further businesses collapsing and job losses continuing to rise.
There are lots of questions, all seem of the rock and hard place variety, and a viable path out of the current dilemma seems all too elusive.
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Hospitality & Catering News: Hospitality second full lockdown– 14 October 2020 – Hospitality second full lockdown
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