As death toll soars, UK finance minister warns economy could shrink by 30%: report
LONDON: Britain’s finance minister has told colleagues the economy could shrink by up to 30% this quarter because of the coronavirus lockdown, a newspaper reported, as the soaring death toll gave little hope restrictions would soon be lifted.
The number of COVID-19 deaths in hospitals across the United Kingdom has passed 10,000 and a senior scientific adviser to the government has said the country risked becoming the worst-hit in Europe.
The government has had to defend its response to the outbreak, with complaints of insufficient testing, a dearth of protective kit for medics and questions about whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson was too slow to impose a lockdown.
Johnson was starting his convalescence from the disease at his country residence on Monday after leaving hospital the previous day, with no clarity on when he would return to work.
In a deeply personal video message posted on Twitter shortly after he was discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, where he had spent a week including three nights in intensive care, Johnson said “things could have gone either way” for him.
He thanked the public for adhering to strict social distancing measures, saying their efforts were worth it and had created a “human shield” around the state-run health service by reducing the spread of the new coronavirus.
While there was widespread sympathy for Johnson across the political spectrum over his illness, the upbeat tone of his message could not disguise the gravity of the choices now facing his government while he is away from his desk.
With foreign minister Dominic Raab deputising for him, but without the full authority of a prime minister, the government faced excruciating trade-offs between the needs of the health service and of the economy, with national morale also at stake. – Reuters