Journalists are right to probe government on ‘what happens next’

PUBLISHED: 15:23 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 16:09 22 April 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19. Picture: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Health Secretary Matt Hancock speaking during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (COVID-19. Picture: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA Wire

Rachel Moore says the more information we can get on the next stages for our country, the better prepared our businesses can be.

Irritation grows daily with journalists who ask about the government’s exit strategies to bring the UK out of this unprecedented lock down.

“I’ve had enough of journalists’ stupid questions about easing restrictions. Why can’t they just let the government get on with the job?” someone ranted on my social media feed this week.

But the shape of how the UK emerges effectively from months in isolation and dormant businesses is the government’s job and will effect our lives as much as the risk of the virus.

Outside our front doors is an economy in crisis. In that crisis are millions of jobs of the very people obeying government instructions to stay at home and moaning about any investigation of what comes next.

What opens first, how and when is essential for any business plan.

And outside our doors are the business owners under the most incredible stress about how, and if they can ever, navigate what comes next, whatever that might look like. They want those questions asked.

Keeping businesses afloat and all those people at home in work are behind sleepless nights, untold anxiety, fear and an overwhelming feel of helplessness.

Decades spent building up successful businesses that families depend on for their livelihoods are today balanced on a precipice, in every town and city, and are doomed to fail by no fault of their own.

That is why these questions are asked every day, not for when we can get out to the pub (that will probably be shut for good anyway).

Put straight, behind every “irritating question” could lie the future of your employer, your job, and other companies, that would leave you unemployed when you are allowed out.

Five weeks ago, I’d never heard the term furlough. On Monday, more than 140,000 businesses applied for staff to join the government’s job retention scheme.

The scheme plays 80% of an employee’s salary during the lockdown if there is no work for these employees to do.

From social media, there are two views of those on furlough. Some see it as being paid to do nothing. Cheers!

Others fear it is the beginning of the end, and their 80% salary will soon morph into £94 a week Jobseekers allowance once the full scale of our economic crisis is revealed.

Furloughed workers are in reality unemployed by another name. They are not at work because there is no work to do.

The government motivation for the furlough scheme was to avoid a massive increase in unemployment in one go.

But the people are still there, statistics hidden at home baking banana bread and drinking gin believing, with incredibly delusion, that their jobs will be waiting, preserved in aspic, to resume, like magic, when this is all over.

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Be under no illusion, the workplace and everything we knew in February, will look very different in June.

Labour market experts predict unemployment in the UK will rise by 5million to more than 6 million by the end of next month - if this is right that the UK would have an unemployment tally similar to the 20% in the US.

We must start re-opening the economy soon with a cautious considered compromise to reopen around a set of conditions to allow life to go on and coexist with the virus rather than wait for it to be gone.

But, however it’s done, pubs, clubs, restaurants, café s and theatres, sport venues where coronavirus can be spread swiftly would be the last to open.

Christmas, or even later when a vaccine is found, is a timescale that would push survival to the limit, with many staying closed forever.

So, please, forget a rosy idea of the end of lockdown, when everyone bursts out of their homes to their old lives of work, coffees, pubs and restaurants. The big “We’re Out” party is as far-fetched as flying off to the Seychelles tomorrow.

After hugging our family and friends, we’ll be more like pit ponies released from underground blinking at the very different world we need to adapt to. We will adapt, but it will come at a high price.

Use your furlough time wisely for your own ‘bounce back’.

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