Saturday 18 April 2020

The unbearable lockdown

As night follows day, so the media hyperventilating about the need for a hard lockdown have switched to demanding an end to it.

The lockdown though now is causing a real split between those who are being furloughed or in full work and those who have lost their income entirely. Clearly the latter group are rather keen on coming out of lockdown so that they can survive.

My own focus today is those who are in lockdown but basically on an enforced staycation. There are millions of people now  in this state. Whilst worried for the future, they are actually having quite a nice break now. My hunch is quite a few won’t fancy a return to work. These will be the group that claim they are too scared to travel etc in true new woke style. They will demand to work from home or have sick leave.

The longer we have a lockdown, the worse this mindset will become. For this alone, we need to quickly long term impact for this further 3 week lockdown. I have not criticised the Government ugh clearly are trying their best and the time for asking questions about preparedness is later when we are through the worst.

France has already seen this phenomenon, I was speaking to an employer there who said 30% of staff won’t come back because they don’t feel safe but expect someone to pay them (white collar workers).


Nick Drew said...

What are the insurance implications for employers????

Govt will need to legislate

Nick Drew said...

and on Constructive Dismissal

Bill Quango said...

its an odd situation.
MrsQ is Our NHS, so is working almost as normal. She is not a nurse or doctor, so has a 20% reduced workload.

I am working. Almost the same as before. Slightly shortened hours. But I travel to work each day. And although it is 35% reduced business, it feels much the same. Kids are at home. As they would be in the summer holidays, anyway,

So, much of lockdown, hasn’t made any difference to my family at all.
Reports of people doing online yoga and learning German. Basket weaving and online choirs etc, is something for other people, my work time takes up as much as it did before. And a lot of people are in that situation. This super-holiday, is for other people.

it’s an uneven crisis, . A doctor I know in icu, works 14 hours a day, most says.. A dentist, works zero. Aircraft Engineers are working the same, but from home. Admin at the same aerospace plant, are working 70% of what they did, but from home. While some managers I know, working from home, are far busier.
The people I know in food, are rushed off their feet. Those I know in travel or house sales, are unemployed.
The critical. High risk or over 70s can’t even go outside, never mind shopping.

Our ‘ war’ stories are going to be very different.

Nick Drew said...

same as in most shooting-wars, in fact

Scrobs. said...

When my company was developing hotels, we relied on a thriving hospitality market, as well as funding from institutions willing to invest in such developments. Their lending criteria was always based on future prospects of a decent site, an institutional franchise agreement, and of course, the correct location, etc.

During the meltdown in 2007, funding just dried up. There was no furlough, we had to take all the risk personally, spent what we needed to to survive, and regrettably lost our main personal 'pain', which was saddening, as we had several superb sites ready to move forward, which in a good year would have netted millions. Had a furlough arrangement existed then, maybe things would have improved, as we could at least operate, but it didn't and thanks mainly to Blair and Brown, the whole issue was put on ice, which was just too bad for three of us heading for, or already in, retirement.

I'm not even sure if furlough would have helped us anyway, as funding would have been so far away, someone needed paying like architects, engineers etc, but these poor guys now will have a much longer period of little work, as these developments, like many commercial schemes, take time, and their fees just won't be forthcoming. It may take well over a year for any business in this particular sector to get back to normality.

I don't think that many in such a fickle business, professionals, funders, even banks, will want to put their heads over the parapet for some considerable time.

It really is frightening, and my heart goes out for so many chums in this particular sector who have such a daunting future. Lockdown improvement won't make much of a difference, the timescale is just too cumbersome.

Anonymous said...

The French are a special breed though. They don’t like to do much work, obviously I generalise. Employment law in France heavily favours the ‘workers’ over the employer.
Comparatively it is easier to get rid of UK staff than French.
The Germans have great employment protection with the Works Council but they do tend to be at least very productive.
I do love visiting France, but how they ever manage to get anything done is a mystery.

Anonymous said...

There is no necessary legislation. This is not France or Sweden. Where payments for not working are almost the same as payments for working.

A firm reopens. Everyone trots back.
Those that don’t want to can furlough themselves with a self certification of virus related causes.

But they will be moved onto Statutory Sick Pay.
After 28 weeks that ends. And the individuals must claim from the government. The employer may retain them. Or not. Either way, they cost nothing.

Lord Blagger said...

I crunched the numbers. NICE/NHS says that one QALY [extra year of good life] should only be saved if the cost is less than £20,000.

Based on that, the mitigated [lock down] versus do nothing but treat costs 8.7 bn.

The state has pissed 350 bn alone away. That's without trashing pensions and the economy.

The 'experts' have a lot to answer for.

Raedwald said...

I think the wartime comparisons are apposite, but perhaps the first rather than the second war. In the second people largely did the same things (except for those called up) but to different ends - pressing steel helmets rather than saucepans. The first saw a much more radical shift - women working for the first time, the role of the central State in a command and control economy, the bloody cost.

Right now I think we're still in September 1914, finding to our astonishment that infantry battalions can't just walk into positions defended by machine guns and that our cavalry divisions are wholly pointless.

I think we're still a long way from the exhaustion of 1917, the 96-hour weeks, the emotional emptyness, the collapse, the hopelessness. I have a dreadful feeling that like in 1914, this isn't all going to be over by Christmas. And if we're in it for the long-term, an economy at standstill isn't possible, and voluntarily not working ceases to become a choice. Yes, I can see conscription for at least the under-40s, in State-directed activities, as the government balances losing the fewest lives, saving the economy and continuing to maintain public order.

I'm not normally a gloomy sod, but this time I reckon the chances of a vaccine by the Autumn then a quick return to normal are as remote as the beliefs of many in command in 1914 that Mons or Le Cateau would be a re-run of Sedan 44 years earlier. The portents are not good. It's not yet even 1915 and we've run out of shells already.

DJK said...

The MSM (Telegraph, today) are at last waking up to the unflattering comparison of our pandemic plan (lockdown, flatten the curve, herd immunity) to that of SE Asian countries (large stocks of PPE, test, isolate, quarantine). Shutting down the economy costs squillions and still produces 1000 deaths/day. The alternative road we didn't take involves a bit more work but leaves a functioning economy and only 2 deaths/day (S. Korea today and yesterday).

To me there's no contest, both on the grounds of human welfare and on economic terms.

DJK said...

Raedwald: WW1 comparisons are probably apt, with all the bitterness that followed. Normal life is not coming back anytime soon. Even the leaked plan today to exit lockdown has compulsory mask wearing on public transport beyond June. Eventually perhaps, the government will be forced to look beyond the narrow views of Neil Ferguson and SAGE and try an Asian "squash the curve" approach for the second wave, although I'm not holding my breath.

DJK said...

Final thought: Back in 1999, most telephone exchanges were equipped with GEC System X switching equipment. As people will remember, the Blair government spent hugely in reponse to the Y2K bug hysteria. By chance, System X had also been sold in South Korea (I think). The government there spend nothing on Y2K and had the same non-result as here. Conclude from that what you will.

Thud said...

I've never thought the cavalry would arrive in a blaze of glory but better treatments and several different vaccines slowly arriving at end of year will make all the difference.

Anonymous said...

In terms of the lockdown, I'm not sure what else could have been done.

Yes, test/trace would have been ideal, but the difficulty in getting reliable tests shows it wouldn't have been feasible. We're at a point now where we can provide tests for if someone is infected, but it's taken a couple of months to get here. Letting something with the infection rate of this coronavirus run rampant during that time?

Adopting the Swedish method? The lack of PPE, and demographic of NHS staff, indicate that would have been a disaster.

And any large number of deaths would have generated a level of paranoia far above what we have now, and that would have an equally as bad effect on the economy, only on a longer timescale - we socially distance out of necessity, had we started to in response to personal tragedies, that would become more ingrained.

I don't like the lockdown, and can't wait for it to be over, but given from where we started, it's difficult to see a viable alternative that wouldn't involve a TARDIS and prepping 12 months earlier.

In terms of staycations, well, yes, those who are getting paid to stay at home, it's nice. Those who are waiting on government to get its act together, less so.

I've been fortunate that, whilst losing one project, I gained one, so still have money coming in as a business, I've not even needed to furlough my two staff.

I suspect many businesses will find it difficult to attract staff back into the office, with the arguments about why they can't work from home now neatly holed below the waterline. So they can provide WFH as a benefit, or someone competitor will and they can see their more valuable staff wave goodbye.

Office space is likely to become a lot more of a transient prospect, who knows, maybe WeWork might actually not go bust?

BlokeInBrum said...

The issue with vaccines is that if the virus mutates, then that vaccine is useless and you have to start over again. It's not a panacea that the media think it is.
I'm hoping that we will find treatments that work and make the effects of the virus less lethal. If it becomes something that a couple days in hospital can sort out without needing critical care, then we can move on.
If we can prevent Coronavirus from being a potentially lethal risk in all except the most elderly and immunocompromised, then we can all get back to normal.

AndrewZ said...

I’ve actually been working harder at home over the last few weeks because the project I was working on suddenly became a high priority due to the crisis.

But I suspect that there will be three main strands of experience that shape how this period is remembered. For people who are furloughed or working from home but not directly affected in any other way it will be “The Pause”, a strange limbo time when we just stopped and waited. For those who have lost their livelihoods or loved ones it will be “The Crash”, when a sudden devastating impact came out of nowhere like being hit by a speeding car. For medical staff, the vulnerable elderly and those who find that they are now considered to be essential workers it will be “The Siege”, a period of tension and fear when they lived under constant assault from an implacable enemy.

AndrewZ said...

DJK: You might be interested in Richard North’s coverage of the issue at His professional background is in public health and he argues that we are seeing the results of long-term failures, such as not having any pandemic plans other than for flu and the running-down of the old local authority environmental health infrastructure that could have carried out effective isolation and contact tracing policies.

As for Y2K, I see it as a shining example of a problem being anticipated and fixed in good time. Of course, the media treated it like the apocalypse beforehand and as a joke afterwards, but we all know how shallow and frivolous they are.

Raedwald: I wouldn’t call you “gloomy” but we all have our biases and from reading your comments I think that yours is towards expecting dramatic and decisive outcomes rather than the fudge, compromise, muddling through and general reluctance to resort to the (metaphorical or literal) nuclear option that usually prevails, even in times of crisis. But if you want a military analogy for the effects of a pandemic on a modern society, how about the siege of Paris in 1870-71?

Thud said...

blokeinbrum measles virus mutates, same vaccine from the 50's still works.

BlokeInBrum said...

True, but does that apply to Coronaviruses? There are different flue vaccines depending on the exact strain and I would have thought that Covid would be in a similar bracket.
Also it seems that not everyone who has had the virus automatically becomes immune to getting it again.