Entrepreneur Luke Johnson, former chairman of Pizza express has said that ‘lock-down risk 1930s-style depression that may not protect NHS in long run’, and urged the government to increase testing for people who may not have COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, in a bid to get the country to go back to normal.
Speaking on Sky News’ Ian King Live, he said: “The longer this shutdown continues, the more industry will generally shut down and become insolvent.
“I think there is a terrible trade-off the country will have to make at some point in the very near future about the damage to our whole standard of living and whether we are willing to accept the suicides and all the collateral damage of the shutdown, as opposed to protecting the NHS so it can keep people with the virus alive.”
Mr Johnson added: “I think we could well be facing a downturn that isn’t just an average recession but is closer to something like the Great Depression from the 1930s.
“If you look at the misery and ill health that caused and the damage to society as a whole there is a serious debate to be had to see if we are relentlessly pursuing the right course of action.”
“The longer the shut-down continues, the more industry will shut down and become insolvent. There is a terrible trade off the country will have to make sometime in the future over the damage to our whole standard of living and whether we are willing to accept the suicides and the collateral damage from the shut-down, as opposed to protecting the NHS so it can keep people with the virus alive.”
“The thing is to ramp up testing to then work out what the fatalities are, work out who is immune, and try to reopen society because ultimately if the country gets into a very serious financial position, we won’t be able to afford a decent NHS, so ultimately that won’t protect the NHS at all if the economy crashes”
His warning comes as new research reveals that a fifth of all small and medium-sized businesses in the UK are unlikely to get the cash they need to survive the next four weeks, in spite of unprecedented government support.
A study from a network of accountants suggests between 800,000 and a million firms nationwide may soon have to close.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said last month that businesses would be able to get Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans of up to £5m to help them survive the shut-down, however Johnson warned government support money is not getting through yet. He added: “The earliest will be later on this month, and it might not be until May.
He added: “There are concerns at the idea they are being forced to lend to companies, given all the uncertainties, they wouldn’t want to lend to even though they are getting an 80% underwriting from the government, while the other 20% they are on risk for. They are probably avoiding taking on that risk where they can. The banks are concerned about bad debts and ultimately their own solvency. So they are not going to be willing to lend to businesses that are likely to go bust anyhow.”