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Jeremy's Blog 23rd October 2020: Coronavirus Ongoing Measures

This article by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 22nd October 2020.

The coronavirus pandemic and the measures to manage it perplex the more as it goes on. All, including government, are trying to understand it as it evolves while, over time, the challenge in balancing business and health seems to become more difficult.

It now looks more complex than the simple hit and then recovery, with a V-shaped model for the economy, assumed at first. “Herd immunity” seems distant (even in Sweden) – especially as many rural areas have had little exposure to the disease – and it is uncertain what a vaccine might achieve were it available. With cases (but not yet so much deaths) rising faster than foreseen, this looks like a longer and more testing haul. The longer the disruption lasts, the more change we will see in business and social life.

As the Chancellor revises his judgments, uncertainty has reduced the intended three year spending review to a single year’s settlement with potential consequences for such multi-year schemes as the long promised UK Shared Prosperity Fund, in part replacing LEADER. Agriculture benefits from the funding commitment running to 2024. Meanwhile, Government finds itself bargaining with the haphazard structure of partial English devolution.

The March Budget outlined £640 billion of infrastructure spending over the next five years but doubts are being posed – in local AGMs and more broadly – about the full programme. Some, pointing to new work patterns, argue about its composition, criticising many transport works from Heathrow’s runway to HS2.

Bar perhaps some relaxation in Leicester and Luton, the fact of restrictions on local areas creates an inertia for their retention. Scotland is extending its restrictions; Wales has indicated new national rules when its present “firebreak” ends and England is bringing more areas into higher risk tiers. What happens as the weeks go by?

Much of agriculture remains largely unaffected, having the same issues as in February but with a second difficult autumn. However, the lockdowns of hospitality in Wales, Northern Ireland and parts of England and Scotland further disrupt the food service sector. Supplying schools and hospitals will not be enough to carry overheads of wholesale supply chains. They, as much as turkey farmers, looks nervously at Christmas. Meanwhile, the “firebreak” has been thought to cost Anglesey over £1m in holiday cottage income.

It does look like preparing business for the long haul and, with the need for economic growth to pay for all, moving to a green recovery becomes more imperative.

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