Rishi Sunak warned of economic ‘tipping point’ as Cabinet row over lockdown erupts
Britain’s economy has been plagued by the coronavirus crisis as it continues to spread panic across the globe, with businesses and companies across the country forced to shut up shop when the UK was closed down to fight the invisible killer disease. Ministers have said they want to be sure the UK is past the peak of the outbreak before easing the restrictions, but members of the Cabinet are reportedly urging lockdown conditions to be eased amid concerns about the impact on the economy.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is now set to issue ministers with a gloomy financial forecast as the UK lockdown thrust the economy into unknown territory.
Mr Sunak is understood to be working with Health Secretary Matt Hancock to find a “holistic approach in trying to find the right balance” between the health and economic impacts of the lockdown, a source close to the chancellor told the Daily Telegraph.
A senior Tory MP told the newspaper: “If people are told to stay at home for another four weeks, it’s going to be really tough.
“The tipping point is when there is no money in the economy to pay for it [the lockdown].”
As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the country, analysts think the country is heading for its sharpest economic slump in a century.
A minister told the Times it was important not to do “more damage” and measures could be eased after another three weeks.
Scientific advisers will meet on Tuesday ahead of the formal review of the strict social distancing measures on Thursday, the deadline set out in law.
Ministers will this week present evidence of the health and financial impacts the lockdown is likely to have on the country as they work towards decisions over the length of continued closures.
They will hold a Cobra meeting to review the lockdown on Thursday after ministers hear from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies committee.
A source said: “The Treasury will have a view where the economic impact is.
“The Health Department will have a view on what the health impact is of the lockdown ending, and also what the health impact of the lockdown continuing is including on operations or mental health.
“There will be a whole lot of evidence in Cabinet over the next few days, which we’ll be considering and will be taken in the round.”
Britain met a sombre milestone this week when the national death toll passed 10,000.
The death toll in hospitals across the UK stood at 10,612 as of 4pm on Saturday, an increase of 737 over a 24-hour period, according to official figures on Sunday.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who warned during his Budget last month that the UK risks falling into recession as a result of disruption caused by coronavirus, has already injected £14 billion from the coronavirus emergency response fund into the NHS and local authorities.
But the Government continues to face pressure over shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline NHS staff, as a growing number of health workers died.
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