We need a route map out of lockdown

We need a route map out of lockdown

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Its time to start thinking about a Route Map back to normalcy, according to Downtown boss Frank McKenna, who is calling for a timescale for the lifting of restrictions, COVID passports and a refreshed business support package from the government.

[vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_column_text]The early optimism and positivity that existed as we entered the New Year, with a Brexit deal done, a vaccination programme in place and a new US President about to take his seat to bring a return of sanity to global political discourse, is starting to evaporate.

Not yet at the end of January, doubts are already in play about the UK governments ability to roll out vaccines quickly enough. Polls show that there are an increasing number of people frustrated by lockdowns (on average the support for lockdowns has dropped from high 80s% in March 2020 to less than 50% now). And all indicators are that a record number of British businesses are in ‘serious distress’.

What can Boris Johnson do to cheer us up again? Well, the good news, for him and us, is that the UK is doing well in terms of its vaccination roll out. Other than Israel, no other country has managed to stick more needles in more arms than the UK. The task now is to ramp up vaccines moving forward and ensure that this good start is maintained.

Alongside this, though, Johnson and his colleagues must now recognise the urgent need for a road map back towards normalcy.

Three things that the government need to do now. First, tell us how many people will have to have been vaccinated before restrictions can begin to be lifted. For me, that could still be as early as mid-February, including the reopening of schools after half-term, if we accepted that once the most vulnerable have been injected the risk factor of the virus spreading becomes more agreeable. Once a clear route map is in place, whatever the timescale, businesses can begin to get their heads around what they need to do to get through the crisis and act accordingly.

Second, have in place comprehensive test and trace facilities across the country and introduce COVID-passports. Those who can demonstrate that they have had a negative test, or a vaccine, can access retail, hospitality, and cultural venues – and work from work. The messaging around this needs to be clear or we risk another ‘mask’ fiasco, where some people think it is acceptable for them to ignore this advice because enforcement has not been strong enough.

Third, come up with a refreshed business support package now – we cannot afford to wait until the budget statement in March.  The criteria around CBILS loans must be revisited and relaxed. The first round of funding was intended to get companies through a three to six-month crisis, not a year. The Chancellor must now instruct the banks to proceed with a further round of investment for those businesses who need it. He should also announce an extension of the furlough scheme until the end of 2021. He can always row back on that if the economy bounces back quicker, but such an extension will save many jobs during the next quarter.

A failure to act will see a return of the negativity that consumed us before Christmas – and may translate into a huge rebellion of Tory backbench MPs who are getting as fed up as many of us with the ‘one more heave’ approach the government appears to have adopted throughout the crisis.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row type=”in_container” full_screen_row_position=”middle” scene_position=”center” text_color=”dark” text_align=”left” overlay_strength=”0.3″ shape_divider_position=”bottom”][vc_column column_padding=”no-extra-padding” column_padding_position=”all” background_color_opacity=”1″ background_hover_color_opacity=”1″ column_shadow=”none” column_border_radius=”none” width=”1/1″ tablet_text_alignment=”default” phone_text_alignment=”default” column_border_width=”none” column_border_style=”solid”][vc_raw_html]JTNDYSUyMGhyZWYlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRnR3aXR0ZXIuY29tJTJGRG93bnRvd25GcmFuayUzRnJlZl9zcmMlM0R0d3NyYyUyNTVFdGZ3JTIyJTIwY2xhc3MlM0QlMjJ0d2l0dGVyLWZvbGxvdy1idXR0b24lMjIlMjBkYXRhLXNob3ctY291bnQlM0QlMjJmYWxzZSUyMiUzRUZvbGxvdyUyMCU0MERvd250b3duRnJhbmslM0MlMkZhJTNFJTNDc2NyaXB0JTIwYXN5bmMlMjBzcmMlM0QlMjJodHRwcyUzQSUyRiUyRnBsYXRmb3JtLnR3aXR0ZXIuY29tJTJGd2lkZ2V0cy5qcyUyMiUyMGNoYXJzZXQlM0QlMjJ1dGYtOCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRnNjcmlwdCUzRQ==[/vc_raw_html][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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