Andy Richardson: 'The second wave is rising'


Here it comes.

The second wave is rising. Daily records are being set across Europe as the relentless rise of Covid continues.

Politicians are warning of tough decisions as they aim to combat rising unemployment and kick-start fragile economies while keeping people safe.

The young, frustrated that they’re paying the price for a disease that targets the elderly, are increasingly breaking the rules. The fact their rebelliousness may kill granny is collateral damage in the War on Corona.

Spain and France are already experiencing surges that mirror the numbers during spring. Italy and the UK are on a lower trajectory, when things could go either way.

Quite reasonably, MPs want the Government to extend furlough to save those businesses that will still be viable once all this has passed, as it one day will. They understand all jobs can’t be saved, but they’d like to give a lifeline to the many who’ll still be profitable in the post-crisis economy. Targeted extensions are required. If not, say hello to mass unemployment.

Germany, Belgium, Australia and France have all provided wage support schemes that extend into the New Year. And if we take the example of our cultural economy – theatres, concert halls, nightclubs and the like – it’s hard to see the case against them. Let’s say a theatre employs ten full time staff. And let’s say all earn less than the average UK wage of £29,000, with income of £23,000. Despite Oliver Downden’s plans for Operation Sleeping Beauty to re-open theatres – memo to Mr D, nobody believes you – theatres are likely to remain closed as we enter the Era Of Six. Let’s say we run through to Easter before they re-open; that’s a wage bill approaching £250,000 with no income to pay it. Then there are the running costs, the utilities and insurance, the rent and maintenance. Most will close unless support is forthcoming – yet all are viable once Covid is gone. There are thousands of other businesses in a similar position.

As we board the Covid Express for the second time, lessons must be learned from spring. The failure of track and trace is inexcusable. The Government has had all summer to fix it. It knew this was coming.

Still, if Covid is getting us down, there’s always Brexit to turn to. With little hope in sight, envoys are ploughing on, like out-of-love divorcees squabbling over the garden furniture and who keeps the cats.