Anne Marie Waters
Tuesday 15th June 2021
Boris Johnson yesterday announced that the so-called “day of freedom” is to be delayed by a month. He insists however that it will be no longer than that. The government says it wants more time to vaccinate millions more people.
The “day of freedom” was the day in which we were due to go back to normal. We have come a long way though. Shops and restaurants and bars and cinemas and theatres and life has reopened. The restrictions that remain are largely based around numbers. Bars may be open but not all tables can be used; social distancing is still part of things. There is also table service only and cinemas and theatres are limited to half capacity. These things obviously have an economic impact, as will delaying the reopening.
Businesses such as nightclubs have been preparing to open on June 21st, and this costs money, money they cannot now bring in because they can’t open. Some in the entertainment industry claim they may not survive another 4 weeks.
According to the BBC:
“Hospitality, wedding and night-time entertainment businesses have reacted with horror to the delay in England’s full reopening until 19 July.
“One nightclub owner told the BBC he had been closed since March last year and had a full diary of events planned over the next few weeks, which he’ll now have to cancel, losing thousands of pounds in revenue.
David Whittall, who runs the nightclub and live music venue Suki10c in Digbeth, Birmingham, now has no way to pay the bills in June, he said.
And wedding planners said the continuation of some restrictions meant couples were likely to defer their weddings again.”
However, the country is otherwise limping back on to its feet.
Unemployment is slightly down and job vacancies are up. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has said: “The number of employees on payroll grew strongly in May, up by almost 200,000, although it is still over half a million down since the pandemic struck.
“Job vacancies continued to recover in the spring, and our early estimates suggest that by May the total had surpassed its pre-pandemic level, with strong growth in sectors such as hospitality.
“Meanwhile the redundancy rate remains subdued, while the number of employees on furlough has continued to decline.”
Growth took place in April, by 2.3%.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that more than one million people came off the furlough scheme in March and April, while the ONS states: “Strong growth in retail spending, increased car and caravan purchases, schools being open for the full month, and the beginning of the reopening of hospitality all boosted the economy in April.”
The bad news is that the government is now telling us that virus cases are doubling. This country, and its economy, is still unclear and unstable. That is the unfortunate reality.
In other (bad) news, congestion and delays in global shipping are set to remain until Christmas. This is caused by a COVID outbreak in the Guangdong province of China, causing congestion there. “The problems in Guangdong are just the latest in a series of severe setbacks for the industry. Shipping firms have been struggling to cope with dramatic fluctuations in demand triggered by the pandemic, as well as the consequences from the recent blockage of the Suez Canal.”
Finally in this morning’s news, the UK and Australia have signed a new trade deal. The BBC reports:
“A trade deal between the UK and Australia has been agreed between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his counterpart, Scott Morrison.
Downing Street said the new pact meant British products such as cars, Scotch whisky, biscuits and ceramics would be cheaper to sell to Australia.
However, there has been concern from UK farmers over the deal.
The agreement is the first trade deal to be built from scratch since the UK left the EU.
It is seen as an important step towards the UK joining a wider Asia Pacific free-trade agreement.
As part of the pact, the government says Britons under the age of 35 will be able to travel and work in Australia more freely.”
In summary, there is news, and it goes back and forward and up and down. Trade deals signed, unemployment down, slight economic growth, but yet another delay in reopening our economy. This is what the papers are focused on this morning. Headlines include: “Will We Ever Be Free?” (The Sun), “Freedom Put On Ice” (Metro), “‘Time to Ease Off the Accelerator’ – Johnson delays the end of lockdown” (The Guardian), “It’s Definitely July 19th – Unless it’s not” (The Telegraph), “PM: Curbs could go on and on” (Daily Mail), “Boris: Let’s Be Sensible… Delay will save lives” (The Express), “Vax to the Future” (The Mirror), “We must learn to live with Covid, warns PM” (The Times), and “Business has hopes dashed as lockdown’s end delayed” (The Economist).
The last one is the most crucial. Hopes are dashed again, we are still uncertain, in many ways nothing has changed.
Anne Marie Waters
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