Scrooge was a much-misunderstood man. That thought may be behind the statement by Julien Lenglet, Head of the Antony Hospital in Paris, who believes that festive celebrations could lead to a surge in coronavirus cases and consequently pronounced, "I would say, without any hesitation, that we ought to cancel Christmas.”
If there is one adjective that our politicians do not want applied to them as the festive season hoves into sight, it’s “Scrooge-like.” Their desperation to enable us “to enjoy as normal a Christmas as possible,” is almost palpable, yet everything depends on the coronavirus, or rather on the scientific advice which underpins their actions. And that, of course, renders a “normal” Christmas well-nigh impossible.
With the media’s reporting contradicting itself from page to page, it’s not hard to find arguments to back up almost any case, whether medical, social or economic. However, without businesses and the income (taxes) they generate to feed the ever-growing demand for public services, it’s going to take generations to heal the wounds inflicted on the public finances and pay back all the money currently being hosed at us by the government.
That’s why I have little sympathy with Monsieur Lenglet. The tradition of Christmas Day being a public holiday is deeply engrained in us (although within living memory it was a normal working day in Scotland) and in our current economic predicament the last thing we need is continuing doom and gloom. Sadly, albeit understandably, when the cheering erupted after Pfizer’s announcement of a “90% effective vaccine,” it was soon brought to a stop by the sober-sounding Boris Johnson’s statement that we need to continue the measures that are currently in place.
However, one thing which many believe is missing from the government’s reaction to the threat of COVID-19 is a cost-benefit analysis of the impact of that reaction on the rest of the economy and indeed society at large. It is hard to believe that this has not quietly been done. There is no way that the politicians have not been monitoring very closely indeed the ongoing results of the vaccine trials. They will know the approximate percentage chances that one or other of the prophylactics will work (or not). They will also know roughly how long it is going to take to roll out the programmes required to immunise the population and allow a “return to normal.” Yet fear of getting it wrong (which, some would say, they’ve managed to do with monotonous regularity) prevents them from presenting us with any other data they have on the economic and societal consequences of the current strategy.
At present, at Cedar we don’t see many clients or candidates making Christmas plans or hatching escapes to the country: instead, everyone’s striving to keep things afloat. Most are doing a remarkable job. We see that in the slow but steady growth in the number of jobs available in all our key markets – accounting/finance, procurement, public sector and transformation. The Pfizer and latterly Moderna’s news gave everyone a boost and the likelihood of a similar announcement from Astra-Zeneca in the next few weeks will do likewise. Business sentiment, like the stock market, will soar as a result. It’s imperative that we carry this on into the New Year.
After the year we’ve had we deserve a break this Christmas. Charge your glasses and toast humanity, remember friends and family, hang up your stockings, go to the Watch-night service if you want and see your nearest and dearest if we’re allowed. Enjoy yourselves. I’m going to. But let’s not slow down in the run-up, let’s check-in again on the 29th, hit the ground running on 4th January and let’s not use the normal excuse that Christmas is a two-week break. That is a “return to normal” we can do without right now. So, keep going now is not the time for half measures…Cheers!