Lifting of restrictions
Since my last update, many countries around the world have witnessed further improvements in the key virus metrics; new cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all falling or at least increasing less quickly. Restrictions are starting to be reduced in many European countries, albeit gradually, and President Trump has announced guidelines to allow individual states to lift restrictions based on their own virus profile.
At the moment, the UK Government is sticking to its approach of ‘stay at home, protect the NHS’ with restrictions being extended for 3 weeks and no detail, yet, on plans to open up the country. They have, however, announced increased testing and the development of a ‘track and trace’ system, both of which are deemed to be vital to manage the virus’ spread when things return to normal (or perhaps a ‘new normal’). Should the metrics continue to improve, then it is possible we will see some development on restrictions towards the end of the current lockdown period. When it happens, it is clear that this will be gradual and phased, with restrictions on certain sectors, those that can display adequate social distancing, and potentially segments of the population, lifted first. Whilst every country will be different, the plans announced by the Czech Republic offer an indication of what might face us (Guardian article on Czech Republic) .
It is also becoming increasingly clear that we may have to live with the implications of the virus for some time to come, at least until a vaccine can be developed. There are clinical trials on various options being undertaken in record time across the world, including one from Oxford University, but they are unlikely to be available in any great numbers, even if successful, until next year.
Generally, markets have been positive over the last week or so, since my previous update, in the face of some eye-watering economic indicators. The markets are hoping that the damage being done by the anti-virus policies will be short lived. They are looking to governments to supply cash in the form of grants and soft loans in the meantime to keep large swathes of the corporate sector afloat until they can trade again. Whilst this is comforting to see, there will undoubtedly be further volatility ahead.
Amidst the difficulties there are some bright spots. The reduction in transport and industrial activity has led to lower harmful emissions and cleaner air in major cities. And, with less people around, wildlife has started to venture out:
• A herd of mountain goats have been marauding through a welsh seaside town,
• In Barcelona, boars have been spotted along the city’s normally bustling avenues,
• Orca whales have been seen in parts of a Vancouver fjord for the first time in decades,
• In Nara, Japan, small herds of deer have been wandering through the city.
As always, if you have any concerns or questions about your investments, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.