Circuit-breaker idea is crude, lazy and defies common sense, writes former Lib Dem leader VINCE CABLE
But I fear that he may live to regret his recent call for a new national lockdown.
To be sure, the Opposition has much to criticise in the Government’s shambolic handling of the pandemic and in ministers’ contradictory messaging.
Siding with the scientists calling for a full national lockdown, when the Government was ignoring their advice, must have seemed like an open goal for the Labour leader.
The collateral damage in terms of health and to the economy would be simply devastating. For a start, it is crude and lazy to close pubs in Penzance and restaurants in Richmond because of family transmission in Liverpool and Manchester.A man is seen above wearing a face mask in Manchester
But a ‘circuit-breaker’, which would see almost the whole country once again confined to our homes, a measure the Prime Minister has yet to rule out, would defy common sense.
The collateral damage in terms of health and to the economy would be simply devastating.
For a start, it is crude and lazy to close pubs in Penzance and restaurants in Richmond because of family transmission in Liverpool and Manchester. Surgery is best done with a scalpel rather than an axe.
Countries including Germany have shown the way by isolating clusters of infection as they occur. Japan’s population is almost twice the size of Britain’s, and its people live closer together and are even older – a known risk factor for Covid-19.
Until last week, I had thought Sir Keir Starmer was doing a great job pulling Labour out of the swamp into which Jeremy Corbyn had sunk it. But I fear that he may live to regret his recent call for a new national lockdown, writes Vince Cable (pictured)
And yet Japan has suffered just 1,600 deaths from the virus, compared to the UK’s 43,000.
These other countries have rigorous track-and-trace systems, but ours has been an abject failure that has cost taxpayers up to £12billion.
I would dispense with the services of the hapless Dido Harding, who has overseen this calamity. Instead, the PM should bring in someone with a military background used to managing complex systems on tight schedules.
Unless we crack this problem, a surge in infections will recur every few months, leading to calls for lockdown after lockdown, doing immense economic and social harm.
The Government must also widen the range of its scientific advice. The Sage committee has over 50 members, some of great distinction.
But I see none of them speaking up for the GPs and hospital consultants who are seeing an alarming escalation in cases of cancer and heart disease as people delay seeking treatment and NHS resources are diverted to deal with the pandemic.
The Mail has highlighted the neglect of these collateral deaths (and why has no one heeded the call from the Royal College of Surgeons to segregate Covid and non-Covid hospitals)?
Nor is there a powerful voice on the Sage committee speaking up for mental health.
This is unforgivable given the growing toll of depression, addiction and suicide that are known to be resulting from incarceration and isolation as a result of measures against the virus.
The International Monetary Fund has pointed out that countries like the UK, which can borrow freely at negligible interest, should have no fear of debt, but should instead give priority to keeping their economies going
Finally, it is high time that ministers paid more heed to the economists who calculate the trade-offs between lives and livelihoods.
One part of the NHS, Nice, evaluates whether to pay for life-prolonging drugs by carrying out coldly necessary calculations of the number of years of human life saved by these treatments versus their cost.
I find it bizarre that the NHS’s public-health wing seems incapable of making such assessments. The responsibility for speaking up for the economy falls to Rishi Sunak.
The Chancellor has had a good Covid war – so far. But the hero of the spring offensive is at risk of becoming the zero of the autumn retreat.
His panicking officials have told him to stop spending so much cash salvaging the regions and sectors damaged by measures against the pandemic.
As a result, Mr Sunak is failing to give workers and companies in the North the support on the scale they need to offset a growing economic depression.
Staff are seen closing their bar in Liverpool for the night. A ‘circuit-breaker’, which would see almost the whole country once again confined to our homes, a measure the Prime Minister has yet to rule out, would defy common sense
Andy Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, and Steve Rotheram, his Liverpool counterpart, are right to be angry at the lack of support in their regions.
But instead of just calling for more help, they irrationally demand that the rest of the country should suffer as they are.
The International Monetary Fund has pointed out that countries like the UK, which can borrow freely at negligible interest, should have no fear of debt, but should instead give priority to keeping their economies going. The debt can be paid back in decades to come.
Back in 1992, Bill Clinton was famously elected as US President on the unofficial slogan: ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’
It’s high time that Boris Johnson took heed of that phrase – and avoided at all costs the perilous urge for further lockdowns.
Sir Vince Cable was Secretary of State for Business from 2010-2015 and is now a Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics