A former Tory minister has questioned the economic cost of the coronavirus lockdown – claiming the cost outweighed the benefits.
Baroness Neville-Rolfe, who served as a business minister under Theresa May and was once a Tesco executive, challenged the government to outline what plans they had to ensure that fuller account was taken of the economic costs of any measures adopted to tackle the pandemic such as lockdowns.
Baroness Penn, responding on behalf of the government, pointed out the lockdown had been about protecting lives and controlling the virus.
She added that the government had provided unprecedented package of economic support, and was planning a ‘phased approach’ to re-opening the economy to minimise the risk of a second peak of the virus.
Lady Neville-Rolfe said she welcomed the package of support, but said the UK experience in recent months showed ‘the costs of severe restrictions imposed for medical reasons are large and indeed much larger than the benefits’.
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She cited a paper entitled Living with Covid-19: balancing costs against benefits in the face of the virus which she said made a strong case that the recent lifting of lockdown restrictions had been justified and measures to counter any flare-up should be ‘carefully targeted, rather than general’.
Lady Penn said she was absolutely right and ministers wanted to use ‘all the tools available to us to implement a targeted response to any local outbreaks’.
She said the government would use the test and trace system to work with local authorities to contain the virus.
‘National measures do remain a tool available to us but they are not one that we would want to use again,’ Lady Penn added.
Last month an expert claims that the coronavirus death toll could have been halved if the lockdown was introduced a week earlier.