Does COVID-19 mean the ‘end of the world as we know it’? 

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In just one week, the expected minimum duration of the macro consequences of the global pandemic has increased by nearly 21%, the biggest one-week increase to date – which now takes us well into the year 2023. While many, and especially younger people, may think the COVID-19 outbreak is over, the reality is that life cannot resume as normal without a vaccine. Does this mean the ‘end of the world as we know it’? 


Life as normal ‘does not exist anymore’ 


85% of our weekly respondents are working from home, with no immediate plans to return to the office. Following social distancing guidelines and focusing on personal hygiene are a core part of life in a COVID-19 world. Face masks may help with the reopening of the economy, but they seem to create a false sense of security and cause people not to follow social distancing rules as strictly. 

The UK government’s approach to the reopening of the economy still leaves 37% of our COVID research panel ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ worried about whether scientific evidence is being heeded, and where the government’s priorities lie – with public health, the economy or populism. It does not have a clear strategy for the longer term or a second wave. 

Still no clarity on the economic impact 


A deep recession will have a material economic impact that will be felt for years to come – while most in our research panel agree with this statement, the effects remain hard to quantify and forecast. 

Inflation is just one of the puzzle pieces. While 78% think that inflation will rise, others think higher inflation cannot materialise because of the high unemployment and suppressed demand that we are already seeing. Additionally, an oil shock appears unlikely because the focus is on stimulating domestic demand. 

Others who expect inflation to stay the same point out that stimulus measures put in place to increase consumption and spending will eventually be rolled back. Stamp duty on first-time residential property purchases will be reinstated after demand increases, and there is already anecdotal evidence of a strong residential market in the periphery of London; with stamp duty returning, demand for real estate should stabilise. Drops in VAT will also be phased out eventually, which will help stabilise consumer spending. 

 

In terms of sectors and sponsor covenant strength, the picture is little changed from last week, with 41% reporting a weaker covenant compared to mid-March, and 55% reporting no change. Communication services, IT and health care are still viewed as the likely ‘winners’ in the new COVID-19 reality, while real estate and consumer discretionary are the likely ‘losers’, according to our research panel. 

But some question the impact that working from home will have on these sectors. Not needing as much office space and shopping primarily online is putting commercial real estate demand and income into question. But these developments may cause energy consumption to increase at home, while the decrease in commuting has made personal cars more popular and public transport less energy-efficient than before coronavirus. 


 

Has COVID-19 radically changed life as we know it, and what further changes do you anticipate in the next few years? Click here to tell us in next week’s survey.


 

Previous articles in this series: 


 

About the COVID Concern Index 


This short weekly survey helps gauge sentiment of our community on the pandemic. The results are distributed each week via the community newsletter. 

The COVID Concern Index values should be used as indication only and do not constitute advice. Their values are bound by the choices available in the survey on which they are based. 

COVID Concern Index:                                 

  • 0 = respondents are not worried at all                           
  • 100 = respondents are extremely worried                     

Expected minimum duration of outbreak:                                         

  • Lowest possible value = 1 month                      
  • Highest possible value = 6 months                    

Expected minimum duration of macro effects:

A methodology change took place on 15/04/2020, affecting data from 21/04/2020 onwards. 

Prior to 15/04/2020:      

  • Lowest possible value = 3 months                     
  • Highest possible value = 12 months                 

Following 15/04/2020:  

  • Lowest possible value = 3 months                     
  • Highest possible value = 60 months                 

Concerned about the coronavirus outbreak and its macro implications? Click here to take part in the weekly COVID-19 survey.