Rishi Sunak is pushing to ease the coronavirus lockdown next month


Rishi Sunak is ‘pushing to ease the coronavirus lockdown next month because many people have OVER-INTERPRETED stay-at-home advice by stopping working unnecessarily’

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak pushing to ease the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown next month
  • Said there is risk of permanent damage to economy if lockdown goes on too long
  • Mr Sunak hinted at his concern at the daily press conference in Downing Street
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is pushing to ease the lockdown next month by encouraging more people to return to work where they can do so safely.

Whitehall sources told the Daily Mail that the Chancellor fears some members of the public have ‘over-interpreted’ the lockdown advice and believe only designated key workers should be working.

He is said to be pushing for ministers to ‘strengthen the message’ that people should be trying to work unless their sector has been directly shut down or they can not practise social distancing.

And he warned colleagues the Government risks causing permanent damage to the economy if the lockdown goes on too long.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is said to be pushing to ease the lockdown next month and is asking for ministers to ‘strengthen the message’ that people should be trying to work where they can do so safely

Sources said observance of the lockdown had been greater than expected, leading to huge demand for the Government’s job subsidy scheme and potentially dire economic consequences.

The Chancellor hinted at his concern at the daily press conference in Downing Street last night, where he said he was ‘deeply troubled’ by the impact of the lockdown on the economy after a warning that it could put two million people on the dole.

With Boris Johnson recovering from the virus at Chequers, the Government’s response is being run by a ‘Quad’ of senior ministers including Mr Sunak, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove and Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

The Chancellor is backing a three-week lockdown extension which will be confirmed by ministers tomorrow.

Yesterday, he said: ‘Right now, the single most important thing we can do for the health of our economy is to protect the health of our people. It is not a case of choosing between [them].’

But behind the scenes he is said to be the keenest of the Quad to ease restrictions at the earliest opportunity as other European countries have begun to do.

While Mr Hancock is pushing for the lockdown to last until at least June, Mr Sunak believes some people could already go back to work.

Other ministers, including Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, Business Secretary Alok Sharma, Trade Secretary Liz Truss and Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey are said to also want the lockdown to be eased as soon as possible.

The chancellor (pictured at press conference inside Downing Street) warned colleagues the Government risks causing permanent damage to the economy is lockdown goes on too long

The chancellor (pictured at press conference inside Downing Street) warned colleagues the Government risks causing permanent damage to the economy is lockdown goes on too long

Mr Sunak (pictured with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab) is backing a three-week lockdown extension which will be confirmed by ministers tomorrow

Mr Sunak (pictured with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab) is backing a three-week lockdown extension which will be confirmed by ministers tomorrow

A source familiar with the Chancellor’s thinking said he was frustrated that people who could be working were not, apparently believing only key workers should be. The lockdown advice states that people should work from home wherever possible.

In construction, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) yesterday suggested output would be down by 70 per cent in a three-month period. The Treasury believes many tradesmen have also downed tools, even though some could still work.

The OBR warned yesterday that the economy could be ‘scarred’ in the long-term if the restrictions go on beyond three months. Mr Sunak is said to have a similar fear.

He is now pushing for a clearer strategy to ease restrictions, possibly by designating more sectors as ‘key’ to the economy and encouraging those employed in them to go back to work.

But Downing Street is keen to dampen speculation about how or when the lockdown might end at a time when daily death figures are still forecast to rise.

A Government source last night said: ‘Talk of an exit strategy before we have reached the peak risks confusing the critical message that people need to stay at home in order to protect our NHS and save lives.’

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