The UK government is seeking to avoid a full national lockdown to save jobs, Environment Secretary George Eustice has said, after 700,000 people became unemployed during the Covid-19 crisis.
“I’ve not seen any projections of four million [unemployed materializing] but certainly we know that there are some 700,000 extra people that are already unemployed,” Eustice told Sky on Thursday. “It’s for precisely that reason that we are trying to avoid full lockdown.”
The Office for Budget Responsibility forecast in July that unemployment in Britain would peak at 11.9 percent in the last quarter of 2020, which is equivalent to over four million people. In 2021, unemployment could average 3.5 million, the projection said.
The Bank of England warned in early August that unemployment could rise to around 2.5 million by the end of this year.
With the current government furlough scheme ending on October 31, a YouGov poll has showed that more than a third of Britain’s employers plan to make staff redundant over the next three months.
The new scheme announced by the government on September 24 is designed to help businesses in supporting “only viable jobs,” Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds said. “This sink or swim mentality is a throwback to the worst days of Thatcher, and just like in the 1980s, people on the lowest incomes will pay the highest price,” she added.
Speaking about wider measures being taken by the government to control the pandemic, Eustice said that the government is not “really trying to scare people” with coronavirus restrictions. “What we’re attempting to do through this is to act early, and in a targeted way in response to local outbreaks,” the minister told Talk Radio. He cited a difficult balance of “acting early… rather than waiting for the disease to get fully out of control.”
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