The Government should learn from mistakes in using blunt restrictions to fight the Covid-19 pandemic because of the damage inflicted on many jobs this winter, even with news of a third successful vaccine, a senior analyst has warned.
Economist Jim Power said the latest vaccine news from AstraZeneca could not come soon enough for the beleaguered Irish economy but he feared many jobs would not survive even if level 5 restrictions were to be eased next week.
Mr Power said it was questionable whether the level 5 restrictions had worked to suppress the spike in the number of Covid-19 cases and a new era of openness was required from the Government about the potential for businesses such as wet pubs to reopen and what may work in suppressing cases under more nuanced restrictions.
"The risk is that people working in shops, pubs, restaurants, and hotels will be driven out of work for good," he said, with "semi-permanent" damage having been inflicted on the economy.
The warning comes as the number of people on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, or PUP, rose by 2,000 to 352,078 last week, the Department of Social Protection said. The figures mean that, including people on the new wage subsidy scheme and on the live register count, there are 902,450 people in receipt of some sort of welfare payment during the level 5 restrictions.
The hopes of an economic transformation sometime next year were boosted as AstraZeneca, the British company developing the Oxford University vaccine, became the third drug firm in two weeks to announce promising results. However, shares in AstraZeneca slid almost 4% in London, while the shares of most of the rival drugmakers which have already reported around 95% efficacy with their advanced trials, continued to climb.
The British drugmaker said the vaccine could be about 90% effective when administered as a half dose followed by a full dose a month later, citing data from late-stage trials in Britain and Brazil.
A larger group who had received two full doses — as planned — resulted in an efficacy read-out of 62%, leading to an overall efficacy of 70% across both dosing patterns, Reuters reported.
Shares in rival vaccine makers rose. Germany's BioNtech — which has tied up with US giant Pfizer — ended 3% higher in Frankfurt, and Moderna shares in the US were up 2% at one stage. Pfizer shares fell 1%, however.
"It is notable the [Ftse] index has failed to replicate the huge gains seen earlier in November, suggesting that vaccine news is losing its power to inspire, while the continued bleak situation across Europe and the US keeps investors worrying about how long and difficult the winter will be," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market strategist at online broker IG.
And there was a new warning that the trio of vaccines racing toward approval may reach the masses too late to prevent another round of airline failures. With last week’s insolvency filing at Norwegian Air, some 42 airlines worldwide have failed or entered administration this year, according to research from consultant IBA Group, Bloomberg reported.