Public figures in the city of London have urged the government to proceed cautiously to ease the coronavirus lockdown, saying there should be a gradual reopening of the economy.
Leaders highlighted the tough decisions for Boris Johnson, with some pointing to the Prime Minister’s difficult balancing act as he attempts to limit the Covid-19 epidemic while boosting the economy.
Johnson is expected to unveil a March 23 exit strategy this week, and is expected to outline a gradual lifting of restrictions that has led most people to stay at home and many industries to stop or cut operations.
The consensus among the FT City Network – a forum of more than 50 personalities – is that the government must prioritize the health needs of the nation while facilitating foreclosure.
Several stressed the importance of having an effective virus screening regime, as a vaccine may not be available until next year.
Ann Cairns, executive vice president of Mastercard, said that “the economy must reopen in a way that is sensitive to the continuing goal of controlling the virus.”
“No one should force people to go back to work, but instead we should have a timetable and framework that envisions a gradual reopening based on real data and information.”
Mike Rake, former president of BT, said that “the lifting of the lock must be gradual by sector”, taking into account the risk posed by the virus.
But he added that at some point there will be more damage to health “caused by the lock than the virus itself. . . all at an increasing and enormous economic cost. ”
Sir Mike said the minimum condition for ending the lockdown would be when the National Health Service was properly equipped, with milestones to come regarding viral testing and vaccines, among others.
Catherine McGuinness, policy officer at the City of London Corporation, said the virus could overhaul “rush hour” operations, given the need for “methods of social distancing.”
“Do we need to encourage phased change? ” she asked. “Any relaxation of the locking will probably be done according to a gradual and progressive approach.
“Confidence and the ability of modes of transportation will be a key factor in returning to work.”
Win Bischoff, President of JPMorgan Securities, said that the end of the lockdown “cannot overwhelm the NHS, it must not allow a complete return to normal or the status quo without proper and reliable tests in place for those returning to the work and those associated with it. “.
But “as in wartime, difficult moral judgments are sometimes necessary,” added Sir Win.
The government will have to take “a terrible moral decision which, in practice – in order for the vast majority of the country to restore the necessary labor economy with viable jobs and economic structures – there will always be deaths despite the most guarantees strict, “he said.
Anne Richards, managing director of Fidelity International, said easing the closure would require “a balance between security and pragmatism, resulting in harsh judgments that no one wants to make.”
The economic damage from the foreclosure was “enormous,” she added.
David Roberts, President of Nationwide, said he was “very cautious about moving too quickly” to a general reopening of the economy until virus containment strategies, including testing, are in place.
He added that a strategy was needed to allow critical parts of the economy to be restarted in stages, on the basis of a vaccine delayed “at least a year and possibly more”.
Miles Celic, managing director of TheCityUK, the professional body for the financial and professional services industries, said that without a vaccine, the UK would need a flexible system to return to work.
“The government and employers must properly prepare people for the possibility that they will spend months in a form of ebb and flow,” he added.
Robert Swannell, former president of Marks and Spencer, said companies should look beyond the crisis, noting the virus-accelerated trends such as online shopping and working at a distance.
“After finding a path to survival, we need to rethink what our businesses and the world will look like after Covid, and then move forward at high speed. “