Given the two-minute time limit, I will restrict my remarks to one lesson from Covid only. It is always easier to say what one would have done differently with the benefit of hindsight, but, as we emerge from the last few months, it is imperative that we take a step back without playing the blame game. Our number one lesson from Covid must be that we need to better prepare for future pandemics, which we all fully anticipate will come. Never again should we find ourselves in a position where our only option appears to be to shut down our economy, with the impact of a fall in GDP of nearly 13%, a rise in unemployment of potentially up to 10% and a deficit predicted to be the largest since the Second World War.
If a three-month lockdown can produce this sort of economic damage, then surely our number one lesson has to be to ensure that an alternative approach is available to us in future pandemics, which we know may well happen. To achieve this, we need an effective test and trace system, we need to put a ring of steel around our most vulnerable people and, to that point, we need a world-class health system of sufficient scale that does not need protecting but is equipped to care for those who need the greatest support and care. Then, if we want to reduce community contact, we can say to people that if they are able to work from home and drive their businesses’ productivity then do so, but if they cannot then go into work, with cafes and restaurants ready to adapt to takeaway and delivery as a natural part of their crisis business planning.
Stopping economic activity should not be our lever of first resort—or our only lever. This is people’s livelihoods, and we should not tear down in a matter of months what has taken years to build. We need to start thinking now about future pandemics.