In an interview with The Sun, Sunak noted that stay-at-home orders and other guidelines purportedly designed to stop the spread of coronavirus have severe economic and social consequences that need to be carefully considered.
“We have to look at this all in the round, and beating coronavirus is important, and minimizing the harm that it causes is important,” the finance minister said. “But there are other things that are important. Kids not being in school for months ... if university students’ learning is impacted, that’s not a good thing.”
He also challenged the notion that keeping the economy open puts money before people, pointing out that there will be less money to fund public services such as the National Health Service (NHS) if more people are out of work. Sunak also highlighted the fact that economic security is an important factor in ensuring an individual’s long-term health.
The chancellor suggested that Prime Minister Boris Johnson should be aiming to dial back restrictions wherever possible, stressing that he doesn’t “think it’s wrong for people to want to strive for normality, and I don’t think it’s wrong for the government to want that for people.”
Sunak expressed frustration with the recently implemented 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants, but he insisted that Johnson was faced with “awful trade-offs” while trying to navigate the health crisis.
Sunak has been vocal in his concerns about extending economic shutdowns, as he struggles to stop record-setting job losses in the UK. Last month he unveiled a new jobs support program designed to help firms keep more employees on their payrolls. UK business leaders have warned of massive layoffs unless they receive more support from the government, which is ending its furlough scheme on October 31.
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