Coronavirus means we are getting five years’ worth of structural change in about five months

Some changes, like the plight of the high street, can be anticipated, while others will be surprising, writes Hamish McRae

1 day ago

To travel in one’s own quiet, clean electric car without worrying about other people’s bugs may have even more attractions in the future ( Getty )

The US travel ban could last until 2021 – that was the warning from Steven Mnuchin. It was, the US Treasury secretary said, “a great time for people to explore America”.

The possibility that it may be a year before some activities get back to what we thought of as normal is gradually seeping into our consciousness. If Americans cannot travel abroad for a year, maybe Europeans won’t either. And when we do, maybe we will do so differently. Perhaps we will drive in our own cars to wherever we are going rather than flying and renting one. We all know about the problems of the airlines, but the turmoil is spreading. Hertz, the giant car rental company, is struggling to survive.

We are still in the first wave of a gigantic sorting out of the commercial world. There are obvious losers, such as any business in the travel, tourism or hospitality industries, the oil companies and the motor manufacturers – the UK has just had its lowest monthly car sales since 1946. There is a rather shorter list of winners, including the online delivery operations, the telecoms and pharmaceuticals. All this you might expect. But what about the longer-term effects? Economies are just beginning to open up – interesting to see how Texas, which is in the vanguard, manages vis-à-vis California, which is keeping the brakes on.


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