A three step easing of lockdown?

Despite the extension of lockdown by a further three weeks, many people’s attention is turning to the practicalities of how we eventually emerge and return the country to work. There have been calls both from the opposition parties and from within the current government to provide the general public with more information.

Whilst it remains the widely held belief that the government will take a phased approach, there is much speculation and debate about what this could entail.

One such theory has been published in a paper by Gerard Lyons and Paul Ormerod.  Dr Gerard Lyons is Chief Economic Strategist at Netwealth, is on the Board of Bank of China (UK), is a Senior Fellow at the Policy Exchange think tank and is a former economic adviser to Boris Johnson. Professor Paul Ormerod is a Director of Algorithmic Economics Ltd, a visitor professor in the Department of Computer Science at University College, London and a partner at Volterra Partners.

They proffer a traffic light system to provide ‘clarity and hope’ whereby the lockdown is brought to an end in three phases using a green, amber, red traffic light system.   Red would be a slight easing of restrictions but with caution while risk is still high; amber would be when conditions improve but care is still needed and green would be when medical experts give the all clear.

Red phase:

  • More types of shops could open but strict social distancing would have to be exercised. The report suggests some shops may not want to reopen and there may be a perception that demand could be too low which would not make reopening so early commercially viable.
  • Travel would still be discouraged and many international flights still stopped.

Amber phase:

  • Limits on private car travel would be lifted
  • Consideration should be given to measures to avoid pressure on public transport and to avoid crowds and a solution proposed is that rush hour is varied to put in place different opening and closing times.
  • Wearing masks and disposable gloves may be compulsory when using public transport.
  • Restaurants could reopen but with strict seating separation, to ensure social distancing.
  • Home working would still be advised for those that can.

Green phase:

  • sporting events and mass gatherings could take place again
  • places of worship could reopen.
  • mass transit could return to normal

There are, of course, pros and cons, and there will long be debate about which industries should have their restrictions lifted and when. For the licensed trade this could mean a partial return for the trade in the form of restaurants at any early stage, as long as social distancing is exercised.  It seems likely pubs, function venues and hotels would follow thereafter but that there would be a gap in between.  The additional issue for the trade is to have enough notice of the proposals to be able to open with the social distancing and any other required measures in place.

Whether or not the government intends to follow this strategy or, indeed something similar, what is clear is that we are looking at a protracted period of easing of measures compared with the very sudden initiation of lockdown.

 

The report in full can be found at http://www.algorithmiceconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/ending_lockdown.pdf

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