The Guardian view of the end of the furlough: terrible timing | Editorial


With a second wave of Covid-19 well under way, workers need the lifeline of the job retention scheme more than ever

The daunting scale of the second coronavirus wave becomes clearer by the day. Figures published on Friday by the Office for National Statistics showed more than 50,000 new infections a day in the week to 23 October, up from 35,000 a day a week earlier. The numbers are surging in almost every part of the country and in every age group, with secondary school children showing a particularly steep growth curve. Figures for the week now ending seem certain to be higher still. As a result, tougher restrictions are being introduced across many areas of Britain, with more to come. Pressure for a fuller lockdown, like the ones announced in many of our neighbouring European countries this week, is growing.

This is therefore a very strange time for the UK government’s job retention scheme, better known as the furlough programme, to be closing down. Yet Saturday is the final day of the scheme that the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, introduced at the start of the March lockdown.

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