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UK will recover quickly, strongly after COVID-19 crisis, says Rishi Sunak

LONDON: UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Tuesday said he is confident that the country’s economy will bounce back quickly and strongly once the coronavirus pandemic has been brought under control and stressed that the economic impact of the crisis would be “significant, but temporary”.

The UK’s Indian-origin finance minister led the daily Downing Street briefing soon after the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR), Britain independent spending watchdog, released its forecast to say that the crisis-hit economy would shrink by a record 35 per cent as a result of the lockdown.

Sunak said the forecast was only one possible scenario, but it is still important that the government is honest with people about what is happening with the economy.

“These are tough times, and there will be more to come. This is going to be hard, our economy’s going to take a significant hit and as I’ve said before that’s not an abstract thing, people are going to feel that in their jobs and in their household incomes,” said the minister.

“But I think the measures we’ve put in place will help and then as we get through this it will mean that we can recover quickly and strongly and get our lives and economy back to normal,” he said.

In its report, the OBR said a three-month lockdown followed by three months of partial restrictions would trigger an economic decline of 35.1 per cent in the quarter to June alone, following growth of 0.2 per cent in the first three months of this year.

While the UK economy would contract by 12.8 per cent this year under this scenario, it is expected to get back to its pre-crisis growth trend by the end of 2020.

“The OBR have been clear that if we had not taken the actions we had, the situation would be much worse. In other words our plan was the right plan,” said Sunak.

Besides the economy, the Cabinet minister gave the latest health update and revealed a daily rise of 778 to the country’s COVID-19 death toll, taking the total to 12,107.

Sunak said the figures are a daily reminder about the importance of the British public continuing to comply with the government’s strict social distancing measures in place.

Professor Stephen Powis, the Medical Director for the National Health Service, said there is increasing evidence now that the number of hospital admissions is stabilising and plateauing in London and other areas of the country as a result of the lockdown.

He said: “We are beginning to see the benefits of the undoubted hardship that we have all been asked to go through in terms of social distancing, in terms of not meeting with friends and family.”

“It’s really important that those benefits are maintained, that we continue to follow the instructions that we have all been given and we will then get on top of this virus.”

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