Britain Heads Back Toward Lockdown

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

This could be us if we're not careful.

British health officials recently warned that Britain could see up to 50,000 coronavirus infection per day in the coming weeks if they don't take precautions now and that would have been a devastating number in a country with about one fifth the population of the United States.

To avoid a complete catastrophe, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced fresh restrictions today and warned that they'll be enforced by the military if necessary.

On Tuesday, Johnson announced sweeping new restrictions in England that are likely to last for the next six months — an attempt to halt the virus as it threatens to surge through the country this fall and winter.

Bars, pubs and restaurants will be ordered to close at 10 p.m., staff and customers will be fined 200 pounds (around $256) for not wearing masks, and people are once again people being asked to work from home if they can, the prime minister said in an address to Parliament.

He told people to expect a "greater police presence" on the streets with "the option to draw on military support" to help enforce the new rules — a drastic move in Britain where law enforcement is typically more pared back.

This is not something I would ordinarily consider significant at this point nor would I cover it here, but we're just one week away from a self-imposed deadline that will see the end of any possible Brexit negotiations with the European Union.

Johnson's new social restrictions -- which probably aren't even strict enough -- will be in place for the next six months and that means there will be a significant amount of overlap between the economic consequences of the virus and the consequences of the Brexit.

Practically speaking, Britain is still a member of the European Union at the moment or is at least within the European customs union during a transition period, but that will end on December 31st. And then everything the world has been warned about will finally come true while parts of the British economy are already crippled by the pandemic. British trade could slow to a standstill at a time when consumer demand has already been significantly reduced.

Like an apparently increasing number of British citizens say, I don't think Boris Johnson is up to the task. But then again, who would be? The Brexit was a terrible idea and a global pandemic just made it that much worse.

A Brexit is obviously not something we're facing here, but we could see an equally significant surge of the virus.

  • muselet

    Brexit plus Covid-19 is one hell of a one-two punch for a—let’s face it—smallish country with a middling economy to take, and would be even if the country had competent leadership.

    Brits may look back on the post-war 1940s and 1950s—years of austerity and even rationing because the US refused to forgive the UK’s wartime debts—as The Good Old Days.

    While we’re on the subject of Covid-19, Kevin Drum this morning alerted readers to spikes in Covid-19 cases in multiple countries, including some that had seemed to have the pandemic under some kind of control:

    I’m not quite sure what conclusion to draw from this, but it sure looks as if even a modest re-opening quickly causes cases to boil over. On the brighter side, a combination of better care for COVID-19 cases and fewer cases among the elderly means that an increase in cases probably won’t translate into a gigantic increase in deaths. That’s been our experience, and it appears (so far) to be the experience in Spain and France too.

    There’s even a graph for people who go in for that sort of thing.