UK coronavirus news: Expert calls for lockdown clarity as fears grow over economic impact

Lord Mervyn King, who headed the UK’s national bank for ten years between 2003 and 2013 was appearing on BBC Newsnight’s Monday edition. He told the programme’s host Emily Maitlis that Boris Johnson’s cabinet faced two specific challenges. The first was a threefold task of ensuring that businesses received government loans as quickly as possible, the demand for PPE was met and that COVID-19 testing was scaled up to the required levels.

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Lord King said that the government really “needed to get a grip on these issues”, before going on to urge number 10 to come up with a clear exit strategy.

He said: “The second challenge is obviously to devise an exit strategy.

“Now I have every sympathy with the government confronting such an extraordinarily difficult problem.

“But either it has an exit strategy which it is not telling us about in the daily press conferences, or it doesn’t have a strategy.

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A FORMER governor of the Bank of England has expressed his concerns (Image: BBC Newsnight)

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He told the programme’s host Emily Maitlis (Image: BBC Newsnight)

“I don’t find either of those options comforting.”

His comments came as several countries across Europe started to tentatively ease their curfews in a bid to kick start their economies.

On Monday, Germany reopened small shops, car dealerships and bicycle stores in the first phase of its plans to reopen society.

The cabinet is said to be split between those who favour continuing the lockdown and those who worry about the impact that a lengthy curfew will have on the economy.

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“Now I have every sympathy with the government confronting such an extraordinarily difficult problem (Image: GETTY)

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The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, Michael Gove, the Cabinet Officer minister and Liz Truss, the Trade Secretary are known to be among those worried about the economic and social consequences of a prolonged lockdown.

A cabinet source said that the government’s advisers on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies had made it clear that any easing of social distancing restrictions now would lead to an increase in the rate of transmission for each person infected, known as “R”.

The source told the Guardian: “The scientists are very clear.

“There’s no loosening of measures we can do that won’t bring the R back over 1.

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The cabinet is said to be split (Image: GETTY)

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Britain could suffer its deepest recession for 300 years (Image: GETTY)

“There may be some small changes on their own that could do it, but the question is whether behaviours change in other ways and push the R above 1.

“The second you have the R above 1 then you’re back to exponential growth.

“We did have an R of about 3. And we’ve driven that down.

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Coronavirus deaths UK (Image: EXPRESS)

“But even a small increase in transmission could put you above 1.”

The government’s dilemma has been highlighted by a report last week that said Britain could suffer its deepest recession for 300 years if the coronavirus curfew continues into the summer.

The report, produced by the Office For Budget Responsibility, indicated that the economy could shrink by as much as 35 percent this spring.

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Social distancing SAVES lives (Image: GETTY)

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It also predicted that unemployment could surge by two million to its highest level since the nineties.

It said the jobless total would rise by 2.1 million to 3.4 million by the end of June, going from the current rate of 3.9 per cent to 10 per cent.

The OBR said unemployment would not return below 4 per cent until 2023.