For the past year, the British economy has yo-yoed with the government’s pandemic restrictions. On Monday, the next bounce began as shops, outdoor dining, gyms and hairdressers reopened across England for the first time in months.
In London, friends gathered at tables outside a pub at one minute after midnight to toast the reopening. Others queued in light flurries at 7 in the morning for shops to open their doors. Barbers and beauty salons had long queues, and by lunchtime the outside tables at restaurants had filled up.
But the pandemic has left Britain with deep economic wounds that have shattered historical records: the worst recession in three centuries and record levels of government borrowing outside wartime.
Topshop on Oxford Street, one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets. Many neighborhood restaurants are now darkened, empty shells.
Eat Out to Help Out.”
Beginning in the fall, a second wave of the pandemic stalled the recovery, though the economic impact wasn’t as severe as it had been last spring. Still, the government is spending about 344 billion pounds, or $471 billion, on its pandemic response. To pay for it, it has borrowed a record sum and is planning the first increase in corporate taxes since 1974 to help rebalance its budget.