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The move was welcomed by several Tory politicians, with Sir Bernard Jenkin suggesting it would lead to a “better understanding” of what was at stake. The Treasury’s own economic modelling is only available to ministers as it stands – by the Chancellor wants it to be more widely circulated to underline the threat restrictions pose.
Mr Sunak has told Treasury officials to consider how best to use economic data to “contextualise” death and infection figures.
The response is likely to involve demonstrating the ‘hit on GDP’ of moving a region up from Tier 2 into Tier 3, or of bringing in the sort of national “circuit-breaker” lockdown advocated by Labour and members of the Independent SAGE group of scientists.
Earlier this month Claire Lombardelli, the Treasury’s chief economic adviser, shared a projection about the havoc a second national lockdown would wreak which insiders suggest persuaded ministers to hold off on the introduction of a ‘circuit-breaker’.
In doing so, they went against the wishes of Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who is thought to believe such a move to be necessary.
Sir Bernard, chairman of the Commons Liaison Committee, said: “The Government must be looking at both Covid and economic statistics.
“Publishing both to explain the basis of decisions would instil public confidence.
“It would lead to better public understanding and so better compliance with the restrictions and bring much needed balance to the debate about how we should respond.”
Baroness Altmann, the Conservative peer and former Pensions Minister, added: “It’s not about Covid deaths versus the economy. It is about deaths versus deaths.”
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We are trashing the lives of young people to save 80-year-olds
Unnamed Tory MP
One insider who works closely alongside Mr Sunak, said it was important for the public to understand fully what was at stake.
They also told MailOnline: “We have spent more than £200 billion already over the past months. We have to be sensible.
“The view, not just in the Treasury but across Government, is that it is our responsibility to make clear to people, for them to grasp what the balancing act and the trade-offs that the Cabinet, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor are having to make every day.”
One unnamed Tory MP was more blunt, saying: “We are trashing the lives of young people to save 80-year-olds.”
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An analysis carried out by scientists from the University of Oxford using Office for National Statistics (ONS) data suggests the average age of people who have died from coronavirus in England and Wales since the beginning of the pandemic is 82.4.
To put that into context, the most recent ONS report suggests life expectancy in the UK is 79.4 years for men and 83.1 for women.
The cost of the pandemic to the taxpayer is mounting, with the Chancellor last week unveiling £13 billion of extra measures intended to protect businesses and jobs.
Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said: “As of mid-July, official costings suggested the total direct cost of the Chancellor’s interventions totalled £192 billion.
“In less than one month the Chancellor has announced his Winter Economic Plan and two further extensions.
“Despite these being substantial packages, none has been accompanied by estimates of how many people are expected to benefit.”
Speaking before Independent SAGE’s daily briefing on Friday, Stephen Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews, said a ‘circuit-breaker’ was urgently.
He added: “The longer you leave it, the more you have to do.
“We need a hard lockdown and the sooner we do it, the shorter it will be and therefore it’s got to be done now.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, also on Friday, shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds agreed.
She warned: “The tier system so far has not worked to reduce infections.
“What we are looking at, unfortunately – given the Government doesn’t seem to be willing to shift on this when half-term holidays are coming up – what we are looking up to Christmas is an increasingly difficult situation in lots of parts of the country.”
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