Liverpool city region business leader Frank McKenna of Downtown in Business says we risk economic devastation if the Government doesn’t rethink its approach to COVID-19 lockdowns. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool city region could face an “unemployment epidemic” if the Government does not review its criteria for local COVID-19 lockdowns.
That’s the view of Downtown in Business chief executive Frank McKenna who points out the the initial lockdown has already had a devastating effect on firms across Merseyside and he fears the economy could now be “on the precipice of a long-term depression”.
“With the latest Institute of Employment Studies survey predicting that the number of redundancies planned in the UK will now exceed anything seen in at least a generation, surely it is time to ask the question ‘Is the Prize worth the Price?” Said Mr McKenna.
He was speaking as the latest unemployment data showed 700,000 people had lost their jobs since the COVID-19 crisis began in March. Mr McKenna added: “Given that the Government’s furlough scheme is about to end, and that a threat of lockdown is hanging over many towns and cities across the UK, this is the tip of the iceberg.
“It is not just the hospitality sector that is at risk. The zombified state of our city centres and the disruption being caused by the Government’s chaotic approach to the pandemic is resulting in firms now reviewing their staffing levels for 2021.”
He says the Government should look beyond just the ‘R’ value (the rate of virus reproduction) when it comes to deciding on control measures. He says the Government should take into account hospitalisations and death numbers, which for the moment remain at a very low level. This is despite an alarming rise in case numbers across Merseyside.
Liverpool’s director of public health Matt Ashton has issued a stark warning in recent days. He is particularly worried about the virus being spread in the city’s packed bars.
He said: “Liverpool’s director of public health, Matt Ashton, said: “The next few days are absolutely critical if we are to avoid an escalation and the possibility of the type of measures that we have seen in other areas of the country when cases have risen.”
However, Mr McKenna said: “It’s now imperative that the Government, alongside regional mayors, start to have a serious conversation about the wider, long-term economic impact that the current policy will have on the country. If we don’t change course, then an unemployment figure north of 3m is inevitable.”
He also said that more detailed data about other social and health consequences of the lockdown needs to be revealed, adding: “How many cancer operations have been cancelled?
“What is the increase in reported domestic violence cases? What spike have we seen in child abuse cases? Have suicide rates changed? What is the medium to long-term effects on students who had six-months out of school, with the prospect of further absence in local lockdown areas?
“What are the health implications, particularly in areas of deprivation, resulting from an explosion in unemployment?
“I am amazed that these questions are not exercising the minds of our senior decision-makers. It is time that we had a more rounded, strategic debate about our approach to COVID-19. We are sleepwalking towards a host of problems that could make the current challenges look like a cakewalk in comparison.”