UK hospitality bodies are warning this week that more than 70% of hospitality and pub businesses could become unviable and close in 2021.
The Office for National Statistics released figures that suggest the week the clocks went back saw a record number of people suffering from loneliness – 4.2m of us according to its research.
The suicide rate has spiked significantly. Unemployment is expected to be between 3 and 3.5 million by Quarter Two next year. We are in the middle of a mental health epidemic. Essential operations are being cancelled. There has been an explosion in domestic violence and child abuse. The biggest cause of premature death in the UK, poverty, and deprivation, will be significantly worse by the time we see the back of the pandemic.
The government and scientist’s solution to all this? Give us a five-day break at Christmas and then lock us all down again in January.
There will be Covid-19 martyrs reading this who would have you believe I am a monster who cares not about the misery the coronavirus has caused and will cause to individuals and families across the country. Some of them will go as far as accusing me of being a murderer, who is prioritising the economy over the lives of 82- year olds.
It is nonsense of course. That would be like me suggesting that they don’t care about those who are suffering with huge anxiety at the moment; or those who have committed suicide; or those who have lost their jobs. Or those who may well die as a result of not getting their cancer treatments in a timely fashion.
Which is the point. We must get some balance into this whole Covid-19 response and debate and stop looking at this through the narrow lens of the virus, or indeed as a binary choice between locking down and opening up.
We cannot keep turning the economy on and off. We cannot stand back and watch our cities, our cultural venues, our businesses die. We cannot continue to do what we have done in 2020 in 2021 if we want to avoid the very worst outcome of long-term misery and despair for millions of our citizens.
A vaccine is on the way. Treatments that make the virus far more manageable for those who do catch it are in play. Testing centres are progressing. Businesses, the hospitality sector in particular, have invested millions to make their workplaces Covid-secure.
Its time for us to apply common sense. Shield the most vulnerable. Socially distance. Wash and sanitise your hands regularly. Get the country, our cities and the economy moving again.