A decade of painstaking fiscal repair-work was undone within the first few hours; and that was just the start. The direct cost of Britain’s stimulus package is £70 billion which, as Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, confirmed on Friday, is considerably higher than in other countries.
The indirect costs are harder to assess, but will surely be gargantuan. The first nine days of the crisis pushed half a million more people onto the dole, wiping out five years of rising employment. With every day that our shops remain shut, the benefits bill will rise – just as tax revenues dry up.
I don’t think we yet understand how vast a hit we are taking. It has become commonplace to compare the coronavirus to the Second World War, but our domestic economy continued to function even at the height of the Blitz. Shops, pubs and schools stayed open, and cinemas were closed for only two weeks.