The Guardian view on a post-Covid recovery: not just for the well-off | Editorial

It was John Maynard Keynes who developed the idea of “animal spirits” as a kind of spontaneous market optimism, or pessimism, which lent a crucial emotional dimension to economic outcomes. The unveiling of Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of social restrictions was accompanied by a glimpse of how they might play out in a Covid context.

As people rushed to bet on the possibility of taking a foreign holiday in July or August, easyJet was among the top risers on the FTSE 250 on Tuesday, reporting a 337% leap in bookings. Shares in the long-suffering hospitality and entertainment industries jumped too. Vaccine rollout and the prime minister’s roadmap have understandably persuaded the population that a definitive exit from lockdown purdah is at hand. For its part, the government, quite reasonably, believes that the release of pent-up consumer energy will fuel a significant post-pandemic recovery. Last week’s UK consumer confidence index was sufficiently buoyant to lead analysts to talk of a “return to normality” in the coming year.

Such speculation is both plausible and dangerous. Animal spirits and consumer confidence will not be enough to repair the deep structural damage wrought on millions of people’s lives by the pandemic…

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