By Miranda Kuyk
Yesterday at 5pm Boris Johnson addressed the nation announcing further measures to tackle the Covid-19 crisis facing the UK. Merely four days ago Boris advised people to avoid public places, including restaurants, theatres and nightclubs, alongside other measures to attempt to slow the spread of the virus. This announcement forced many businesses to make the decision to temporarily close, without supportive measures in place. Less than a week after this announcement, Boris Johnson has implemented forced closures of restaurants, pubs and gyms, in an attempt to get the message across to the public. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, also announced a new set of measures designed to help out these businesses that have been forced to close, offering grants that will cover up to 80% of wages of workers who have been retained. However drastic these measures may seem, are they a case of too little too late?
As mentioned, many businesses felt the need to close after Boris’s announcement on the 16th of March. As a result of the reduced income anticipated by these closures, many were also forced to let employees go. Only now has the government offered to support these businesses, both “small or large”, to quote Sunak. While acknowledging that people have “already lost their jobs”, he delivers his economic plan to help those who have managed to retain their jobs. However, for many, this may be too late. There is also ambiguity around how easy it will be for businesses to access these grants and whether they will be able to get them in time. This news seems overdue, especially for those companies that have closed since Monday and have already felt the impact of decreased business.
Additionally, while the government’s announcements are being received as radical in the UK, when comparing Boris’s response with that of other European leaders, it is hard not to question if he has acted quickly enough. With Italy closing restaurants, bars and other public places as early as the 11th of March and France and Spain implementing similar measures on the 14th, how does Boris’s delay measure up? While all of these countries have a higher percentage of the population infected than the UK, Boris’s late decision could still have a disastrous impact on the state of the pandemic. Only time will tell.