Published: 06:00, 05 November 2020
| Updated: 16:13, 05 November 2020
A business expert says Christmas will be a disaster this year as a result of the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic and the New Year may also see many small businesses in Kent go under.
Professor Richard Scase is one of the world's leading business forecasters and says lockdown #2 could be extended and we may not be out of it before Christmas.
He is a professor at the University of Kent and a global business expert who spoke out earlier this week about lockdown #2 and what the future holds for businesses and people in the county.
He thinks the second national lockdown is entirely necessary, but may have been introduced too late, but says it will have devastating effect on businesses in the county, and that we will not see an end to the virus for some time.
Professor Scase, said: "I think this lockdown is totally necessary and the major problem is that it has been introduced too late.
"Where as other countries introduced national lockdowns over the last kind of two or three weeks.
"The most sensible thing here in the UK would be to introduce the lockdown during the school holidays so that schools weren't open and this would have made a major contribution to making the lockdown much more effective."
And he definitely believes there will be an extension the the second lockdown period, which could take us right up to Christmas.
He added: "I think that the suggestion by Michael Gove that there could be an extension - I think he's probably absolutely correct.
"I think there will be an extension certainly, at least of another two weeks, which would take us right up to Christmas wouldn't it."
And his predictions for the Yuletide period this year are bleak and it will be a struggle to impose social distancing on households.
He said: "And of course, Christmas is going to be absolutely disastrous in terms of trying to impose social distancing and the mixing of households.
"I think getting and having anything like a normal Christmas is virtually totally impossible, not just in terms of family gatherings, and when we talk about Christmas of course, we are not just talking about Christmas Day.
"Christmas usually lasts from about the 22 of December through to the 2nd of January during which time there are lots of parties, social gatherings, getting to meet each other, neighbours, all kinds of social interaction of this kind.
"Also of course, companies tend to have their Christmas parties, tend to have their Christmas lunches and every owner of a restaurant or hotel that I have spoken to has said that usually at this time of year they are fully booked for Christmas.
"Whereas now this year, they are getting no bookings at all because of the complete uncertainty, so we already know that Christmas is not going to be normal this year, compared to last year.
"I think that the extension of the coronavirus lockdown, even if it only sticks to four weeks, which is very, very optimistic, is going to have a major impact.
"In fact, a report was published suggesting that the last three months of this year, GDP will go down by about 8%.
"The period coming up to Christmas is absolutely vital, not just for the hospitality sector, but also for the retail sector.
"This is the time of the year where people spend most of their money.
"They spend their money on everything ranging from clothes, food through to making sure the house has everything nicely furnished for the Christmas family celebrations.
"The impact is already now proving to be a disaster and the nearer we get to Christmas, the more disastrous it will become."
And he also thinks small businesses, especially in the county will be hit hard early next and many may not survive.
He added: "The longer term ramifications for the economy are going to be so significant.
"Furlough's been extended to the 31st of December, but come January and February, that is the time when we are really going to get a big hit in terms of job losses and business closures, particularly here in Kent where we have a very large small business sector.
"It's a sector made up of entrepreneurs who have used their savings to set up their businesses, who are working with very narrow margins.
"I can see a lot of those going to the wall and of course the consequence of this is of course, higher unemployment."
He also thinks the winter months could also be bleak for people in the county.
Professor Scase added: "I don't think in a sense we have even come out of the first wave in a kind of way and of course scenarios are being created by scientists and they are scenarios, not definite plans, but that there could be 4,000 deaths (a day) during this second wave, and of course we now have the winter.
"And we can think of scenarios here in Kent, we had the lockdown in the sense of snarl-ups if you like, on the M2 and the M20 because of Brexit, then throw into that the risk of very bad weather, snow storms etc, how are ambulances going to get to hospitals, and how are emergency services provide back up and support?
"How are hospital staff who are already exhausted, tired from the first wave, how on earth are they going to be able to treat this bigger surge of patients, even bigger than the first wave.
"I think population response to this one is going to be precarious I think and it's already happened and this is why we have had the second wave of course."
Professor Scase also thinks there will be a strong urge from people to break the existing lockdown rules, especially around the Christmas period.
He added: "I think people are getting more and more tired and becoming more and more kind of suspicious, particularly young people.
"There was an interview with a guy on television the other evening from the north of England and he was being asked was he going to respect the rules, and this guy said quite openly and explicitly, 'well mate the rules are to be broken, aren't they?' "
"I think this is going to be the issue. I think when there is strong social pressures for us to interact with families with work colleagues, adhering to that traditional pang of high sociability at Christmas.
"It's going to be very difficult for these rules to be enforced, in fact the whole thing could just collapse.
And he says next year there could be serious health problems to deal with in the county.
He added: "And potentially there could be really real health problems, public heath problems in the early part of next year.
"I think there is going to be a further sense of frustration here in Kent and those voices are already being made, as to why in Kent should we have a lockdown when our rate of infection is still so much lower than in the north of England.
"But I suppose the government response to this one will be that the regional lockdowns haven't really worked in the north of England, so we have had to have a blanket national one, but I still think that doesn't really justify having a lockdown here in Kent
and in the south east of England when the rate of infection is so much lower."
"I don't think we are going to go back to a normal way of life. This virus cannot be suppressed, it cannot be suppressed.
"All we can hope for is a vaccine and that takes time.
"It's not just a matter of discovering the vaccine, it's got to be produced, it's got to be manufactured, it's got to be distributed and of course, we can never tell with vaccines whether they are successful or not, it always takes time to assess that.
"We do not know if there is going to be side effects, in four or five months' time, but at the end of the day we are going to have to go with herd immunity and only today 15,000 scientists, medical scientists, were arguing this is going to be the case because these lockdowns are having such a devastating impact on the economy.
"They are also having such a devastating impact on our personal lives, such a devastating impact on the fact that people are not getting normal treatment, for heart conditions, blood pressure through to cancer treatments etc.
"There is also a major impact in terms of depression, the experience of loneliness, the experience of isolation, so I think that the only ultimate solution to this one is herd immunity and that probably takes two or three years to have any significant impact."