Why we need to choose hope over fear and commit to fully reopening on June 21 - Mark Casci

After what seemed like a winter of Game of Thrones’ proportions, summer has finally arrived in the UK.

Beautifully timed to coincide with the half-term holiday, the sun shone down on Yorkshire in earnest for the first time in nearly a year.

And how sorely it was needed for thousands of businesses.

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After the two unlocking phases in April and May, substantial parts of the hospitality and entertainment industry, which could finally begin serving customers again, were met with the coldest May in a quarter of a century and more than 30 per cent rainfall than is common for the month.

Will the economy reopen fully on June 21?

The next phase of unlocking life for Britain is pencilled in for Monday, June 21 with ministers set to announce whether this will go ahead the week prior on June 14.

Under the Government roadmap, this date should mean an end to all restrictions, at least when standing on British soil. Let me say now that anyone hoping for this to occur may wish to manage their expectations. It is already clear that senior Cabinet ministers are getting cold feet.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock just this Sunday said he was “open” to changes being made to the final unlocking this month, a change in tune from the hitherto consistent messaging that current data supported a total unlocking.

The move is understandable from a political point of view. The London-based media has been up to its old tricks this past few weeks, spreading fear by quoting individual scientists who are counselling against removing restrictions on social contact, while ignoring the fact that the timetable drawn up by Government was informed largely by scientists.

The author argues in favour of choosing hope over fear.

There is also justified consternation over the new Delta variant which is now the dominant strain in the UK and is considerably more transmissible then the Kent variant which swept the nation in the winter.

So what will happen if we see a bonfire of masks on the morning of June 21, followed by a mass pilgrimage to the nightclubs?

Will it mean more infections? It almost certainly will.

Will it see the pressure on the NHS become unsustainable? Highly unlikely now that the vaccinated outnumber the non-vaccinated by some distance and that all vulnerable groups have had their jab.

Hospitality has been on its knees.

Will it boost the economy? Yes, to the tune of multiple billions of pounds, but this is almost beside the point.

One of the things that I have found so frustrating this past 15 months is the designation applied to commerce of either being “essential” or “non-essential”. While certain sectors may be of less importance to the lives of consumers, for those that work in them they are vital.

As far as I am concerned, any business which keeps a roof over the head of a family is essential.

For thousands of hospitality firms the June 21 date is crucial. Many remain closed while others, while open, are operating at reduced capacity and dealing with chronic shortages of staff.

As Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said just this weekend that: “Any delay in the roadmap would have a devastating effect on an already fragile sector.”

It would also send a signal to the wider economy. With most large firms confirming they will be moving to hybrid working, home working will persist in some form for the coming months, damaging trading for city and town centres further.

Any delay in further unlocking will simply kick the home-working question further into touch.

Covid is an unpredictable and cruel disease which has ruined millions of lives. With firms like Yorkshire’s Avacta offering reliable rapid tests we need to take control over controlling its spread while accepting that it, along with hundreds of other illnesses, will never be truly eradicated, no matter what the fanciful Zero Covid adherents believe.

With foreign travel off the table for the foreseeable future and the Euro 2020 and Olympics imminent, we could see a glorious summer for the UK economy.

We need to utilise our expertise, choose hope over fear and focus on the art of the possible.

We can do this.

Let’s just hope the weather does us a favour.