With the relatively small number of new covid-19 cases daily, it's time for the Government to accept that this has moved beyond being a public health crisis, and has evolved into an economic one, argues Robert Hyde

A recent study found that only three countries in the world are less prepared to ease lockdown restrictions than the UK: Algeria, Nicaragua and Iran. While this is concerning, it's hardly surprising, given the months of Government mistakes and failures we have had to endure. Not only has the UK had the highest excess death rate per capita in Europe for the first half of 2020, but we are facing one of the worse economic hits too.

In fact, the Government's reaction to the Covid-19 pandemic has been one of the most financially expensive of any country within the OECD both in terms of the cost of the measures that the government has taken, and the overall damage to the economy.

While no European country has handled this crisis perfectly, the UK's response has neither led to fewer deaths than countries at similar points along the epidemic curve, or safeguarded the economy. Not only is it hard to argue this strategy has been successful at anything, the economic chaos it has caused has been counterproductive, with few (if any) redeeming impacts.

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It's important to remember, too, that this is not merely a case of the UK paying the price for enacting a lockdown too slowly. Were this to be the case, the data would have shown a clear correlation between those countries that locked down first, and those which had the least deaths, which just isn't the case. It's far more nuanced than that, and shown clearly by Italy, Spain and France (which all enacted full lockdowns) having suffered some of the highest death rates, while Germany (which imposed far lighter restrictions) has seen a far lower death rate.

A reflexive look over the last few months, if anything, reveals that the PM was right originally, to think the virus could be controlled by voluntary action, trusting in the common sense of ordinary people to respond to reasonable requests. Given phone tracking data shows us that mobility had more than halved by the beginning of lockdown, going forward the Government should trust the public, not rely on police enforcement, especially since it now knows that nation-wide lockdowns fail to reduce excess deaths to the extent the scientists claimed months ago.

Across the world now, lockdowns are being ended, without second waves of the virus materialising. Moving forward, and by avoiding the mistakes of the past months (such as locking down areas with no Covid-19 patients, or sending elderly hospital patients to care homes) the UK has every chance to both keep the virus under control, and to get the economy moving once more.

With the relatively small number of new covid-19 cases daily, it's time for the Government to accept that this has moved beyond being a public health crisis, and has evolved into an economic one, and it's time for the economic policy response to catch up with the escalating scale of the crisis.

While radical economic policies are now on the table, and with public sector spending and debt levels set to soar, it needs to be stressed that large scale state interventions that will entail a significant extension of the role of the state and its involvement in everyday life are not the only radical policy solutions available. It's time for the Government to lower taxes and cut regulations, and to remember that the main drivers of our future success and prosperity will come from the private sector, not increased state spending.

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