The new lockdown limits could knock a V-shaped recovery for six

The Government has announced a far more draconian tightening of lockdown that anyone expected, at the same time as it tries to get the economy back on track.

The new rules on no social gatherings of more than six people – indoors and outdoors – are likely to not just prove hugely unpopular but also severely hamper consumer confidence.

A nation being urged to get back to the office and eat out to help out one minute, is being told it can’t meet up with its family the next.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has brought in draconian new rules limiting social gatherings to six people at the same time as trying to get the economy back on track

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has brought in draconian new rules limiting social gatherings to six people at the same time as trying to get the economy back on track

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has brought in draconian new rules limiting social gatherings to six people at the same time as trying to get the economy back on track

I profess no real knowledge of infectious diseases, but I can spot incoherent polices when I see them and Boris Johnson’s government looks to have well and truly lost the public on coronavirus.

These past few months don’t look like a way to build back better from a crisis – and the confusion keeps coming thick and fast.

From the mixed lockdown easing messages, characterised as ‘go out, stay home’, to the track and trace fiasco, Dominic Cummings’ road trip, holidaymakers playing quarantine roulette, the Covid-19 testing mess and now a law that contradicts itself.

A nation being urged to get back to the office and eat out to help out one minute, is being told it can’t meet up with its family the next 

You can spend all day in the office with six colleagues, but you can’t go to the pub with them afterwards – only an unlimited number of strangers.

Your child can go to school all day with their friends, but not have a birthday party with more than five of them.

You should get out there in the shops, cafes, and restaurants and spend, but a family-of-four can’t have another family-of-four over for dinner.

The overall effect of this on the economy is unlikely to be good and it won’t just hit those already-struggling industries that are worse affected.

People deprived of their freedom in such a way are unlikely to feel too economically confident and respond by getting out there and helping to fuel the recovery, regardless of whether they could do much of that in a group of less than six. 

Businesses thinking that things have bounced back a bit better than they thought and maybe they will take people back off furlough and not cut so many jobs, are more likely to reverse those plans now. 

Meanwhile, industries already devastated by Covid-19 will be hit hardest.

The travel industry has been brought back to its knees after the early summer air bridges hope, when it turned out that despite the Government’s fanfare about people being able to go on holiday it would send them into quarantine when they got home at short notice.

The hospitality industry seems likely to really struggle in the face of the rule of six.

Industries already devastated by Covid-19 will be hit hardest 

We can still go to pubs, restaurants and cafes, but gatherings will be severely limited, waves of bookings for parties will now need to be cancelled, and Christmas looks as if it might end up off the menu.

Of course, this might turn out to be the right thing to do to fight coronavirus and stop a second wave. Or it may turn out to be an over-reaction? We may find out, or we may never know.

But for now, in terms of our finances, from the stock market, to savings, jobs and the wider economy, the question is what happens next?

Will our investments suffer, as UK-focussed businesses and the consumer economy is dented, will interest rates be cut further and more people lose jobs?

Will the Government give up on recovery for now, focus on lockdown and extend furlough, or will it keep trying to get things back on track? 

To try to end what feels like a miserable column to write on a positive note, I sincerely hope that it is the latter. 

There had been some very promising signs in recent months that we might just get that V-shaped recovery.

Confidence and spending was better than expected and people seemed eager to bounce back.

It would a shame to knock that for six.

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