Rishi Sunak's furlough U-turn was right – but it was forced by his own grave errors | Miatta Fahnbulleh

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The chancellor has finally had to put the nation’s health first. Yet his delays to lockdown cost lives and harmed the economy

This week we have entered a second national lockdown, which has forced the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to U-turn on extending the furlough scheme. Both these outcomes the chancellor did not want and doggedly resisted for weeks. He led the group of ministers in cabinet who opposed the circuit-break when Labour backed it last month. And he fought Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, over the compensation package for those affected by tighter coronavirus restrictions.

The chancellor’s U-turns are not a problem in themselves – ministers should change their mind when their decisions are shown to be wrong. The problem is the time it took for him to reach the right decision. The lockdown delay has invariably cost lives that could have been saved; and it will now require harsher restrictions, and for longer, which will deepen the economic damage Sunak was trying to avoid.

Related: The Guardian view on Rishi Sunak: part of the problem, not the solution | Editorial

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