We knew that the measures we were being asked to take as a nation would cause severe damage to the economy. Here, and around the world. Our Governments have been asking us to put lives before everything else, and in the most part, we have been doing so.
Now, we are starting to see the first bits of data published which is beginning to show the scale of the shock that we’re going to see. IHS Markit has tweeted in the past couple of days charts which show the economy in many parts of the world in freefall:
Some of these drops are worse than the 2008 financial crisis, and we’re only at the start of this crisis. Figures for the rest of March and April I would expect to be worse still.
In the US, a record 3.3m people have registered unemployed in a single week. The previous record was half a million in the early 80’s. Millions more are expected to file in the coming weeks. The Treasury Secretary in the US has warned US unemployment could reach 30% very quickly. Whilst in the UK we are desperate to find out the support package for the self-employed, we have still done a lot more for businesses and workers in this country than the US. Their $2tn support package has only just passed and there was a lot of wrangling between Democrats and Republicans over it. They have been disadvantaged further by this delay.
Life before money
The above charts are of course dramatic, and will get worse over the next couple of months before some kind of recovery might materialise. But I could not be clearer in my opinion that damage to the global economy is absolutely worth the sacrifice if we can save millions of lives. We have all seen the charts which show how tens of millions could die around the world if we do not act. That number of dead would overwhelm any health case system on the planet. And if we do not have a functioning health care system, we have nothing.
I am starting to see in the UK and the US commentary around whether we should be scaling back these measures to help the economy. Knowing full well that lesser measures will allow more people to die and put even more strain on health care systems. I am stunned that even the notion of that debate is being brought up. Are we truly that heartless? Does money mean more than life? People claiming that an economic depression would kill more people than the virus. Do people really believe that? Governments around the world are stepping in to support people, this is not the Wall Street Crash.
Remember also that this is temporary. Granted the lockdown is going to be here for longer than we think. The initial three week period is likely to stretch to another month. As it has done in other countries. But at some point, we will be allowed to go back to work. Social distancing measures will be in place for a long time, mostly likely the rest of the year. But the halt to work will not last all year, and we have to make sacrifices to make sure we don’t lose loved ones in the coming months.
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