BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg reveals ‘huge anxiety’ in Cabinet over latest coronavirus rules

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Laura Kuenssberg claimed a senior figure in Government told her that every decision made so far to control the spreading of coronavirus in the UK has been taken with difficulty. She warned huge anxiety over the impact this will have on the UK economy is now being put aside to ensure the country is safe and the NHS can cope with the deadly outbreak. 

She said: “I think there’s huge anxiety of what the economic impact of this will be – no question.

“But the way this was described to me by a senior figure in Government yesterday is that these are fine, fine judgements.

“There are no good options, every decision is a difficult one.

“And it’s not just in terms of the impact on the economy that ministers wanted to go slowly and sensibly and calmly in terms of closing the doors of the country.

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Ms Kuenssberg added: “But there’s also the question of national fatigue. If these kinds of stringent measures were brought in too early, there’s a worry that people would find it so difficult, so challenging, they might get bored, then people might start thinking well I feel fine so I’ll just pop out, potentially just at the moment when we might be reaching the peak of the outbreak.

“So I think there are so many different considerations being taken behind closed doors.

“Fraught times, difficult times, but very finely balanced judgments.”

It comes as UK industrial output saw the largest slump on record as measures to halt the spread of coronavirus dealt the economy a severe blow, according to new figures.

Economists said the new data revealed that “a recession of a scale we have not seen in modern history” is increasingly likely.

The flash IHS Market/CIPS composite purchasing managers index (PMI), a preliminary report before final figures are released next week, gave a reading of 37.1 in March. It fell from 53.0 in February.

The survey, which was compiled between March 12 and March 20, reported the most dramatic decline since the series of figures was first started in 1998.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “The surveys highlight how the Covid-19 outbreak has already dealt the UK economy an initial blow even greater than that seen at the height of the global financial crisis.

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“With additional measures to contain the spread of the virus set to further paralyse large parts of the economy in coming months, such as business closures and potential lockdowns, a recession of a scale we have not seen in modern history is looking increasingly likely.”

The slump was heavily driven by the services sector, which saw output plummet as people were told to shun pubs, restaurants and leisure venues due to the pandemic.

The survey’s flash services index fell to 35.7 in March, from 53.2 in February.

It was significantly worse than the previous lowest reading of 40.1 in November 2008, after footfall completely subsided.

Measures to stem the spread of coronavirus particularly impacted hotels, restaurants and other leisure activities such as sports centres, gyms and hair salons, the survey said.

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