THERE have been many demoralising announcements amid the human tragedy that is the coronavirus pandemic of threats to, or the loss of, thousands of jobs at a time.

News over the weekend, confirmed on Monday, that Cineworld was moving to temporarily close its cinema operations in the UK and US, affecting around 45,000 employees, was somewhat striking amid this torrent of dismal employment news.

The reopening of cinemas in the UK, albeit with many empty seats for social distancing, had seemed like an important morale-booster for many as people looked forward following lockdown and hoped for a return to greater normality, albeit over time.

For many, the ability to return to the cinema would have provided some much-needed respite and escapism amid the relentless grim news around the coronavirus pandemic.

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The release of big-budget movie Tenet, directed by Christopher Nolan, seemed like a symbolic moment for cinema and the broader film industry. And in a broader context, in the same way that the restart of albeit initially behind-closed-doors Bundesliga football in Germany as Borussia Dortmund met Schalke provided hope of an eventual path back to normality, the Tenet release offered the promise of more familiar times again.

Less than two months on from Tenet gracing the big screen in the UK for the first time, Cineworld has moved to shutter its cinemas on both sides of the Atlantic, from yesterday. It cited reluctance by studios to release their pipeline of new films, with key markets such as New York remaining closed.

The company’s statement to the London Stock Exchange on Monday was in stark contrast to the upbeat welcoming back of customers to Cineworld in August for Tenet.

An enthusiastic member of staff with a badge showing his favourite film as Nolan’s Inception hit seemed delighted to welcome back patrons to view the director’s latest film. The walk to the cinema through an almost-deserted shopping centre was somewhat surreal but the movie-going experience overall felt normal enough.

Clearly, the attempt to return to some kind of normal trading for Cineworld has not been easy. The social-distancing requirements, while entirely understandable and reasonable from a public-health perspective, must present huge challenges for cinema operating models. Especially when combined with cinemas having remained shut in key markets and the consequent lack of new releases. At the best of times, cinemas need major new releases to pep up their financials but in the current situation, more than ever, it will take big movies to get people to visit cinemas in these somewhat surreal circumstances.

The number of jobs affected in Cineworld’s UK and US operations is huge.

And in a UK context, crucially, this brings us back to considering the adequacy or otherwise of job support measures from the Boris Johnson Government.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s new job support scheme, which replaces the hugely successful coronavirus job retention scheme, will only help employees who can work at least one-third of their normal hours. And the commitment required from employers to help support the incomes of semi-furloughed workers is very substantial.

That then brings us back to comments from Mr Sunak about protecting “viable” jobs.

Hopes remain high of large-scale vaccination against Covid-19 coronavirus possibly as early as the first half of next year.

If and when we get to that stage, the cinema-going experience could be back to normal pretty soon afterwards.

So there can be no argument that jobs in cinemas, or in the broader film industry, and employment supported by this sector, are not viable.

There has been way too much talk of how life is going to be different forever after this crisis.

Mr Johnson’s glib “Build Back Better” slogan, which has also been adopted by others, is an irritation in this regard.

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It tries to put a positive spin on a grimly negative situation. The sorry fact of the matter is that, during and in the wake of economic downturns, inequality tends to grow. Certainly, huge efforts must be made to ensure this does not happen this time and to try to create a more equitable society but that will be achieved by actual policy measures and not by slogans. And certainly not by saying one thing and doing another. Sadly, it is an unlikely outcome.

Whatever happens, the drive for greater equality will not be helped by mass unemployment in sectors which are closed or unable to operate properly not in any way because of their business model, or lasting economic factors, but rather solely as a result of the pandemic and necessary government restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus and limit deaths.

The point about “viable” jobs also applies to theatre, and to the tourism and hospitality sectors, as well as to employment in airlines and airports, including ground-handling, and to travel agents and so on.

We even had this week what was interpreted by the arts community as a suggestion from Mr Sunak that musicians and actors might have to retrain. Surely that was not the suggestion? Are these centuries-old crafts not going to be of interest to people any more once things get back to normal? Really?

Glasgow Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stuart Patrick summed up the situation well in The Herald this week as he took issue with the “view that the time has come to stop government support of some businesses because we need to reallocate resources to more productive segments of the economy”.

He noted the huge number of jobs in accommodation and food services, arts, entertainment and retail which had been funded by the job retention scheme.

Mr Patrick asked: “Are we seriously suggesting a substantial share of our massive consumer services industry should be shut down, packed away and replaced with ... what?”

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Meanwhile, we have all this talk about how people will not be able to afford to go on holiday abroad any more.

Certainly, the pandemic will create major short-term financial challenges for many. And these challenges will, in a UK context, be greater if the Johnson Government does not pull the finger out and get on with providing proper employment support through the winter and beyond.

France and Germany have taken a two-year view. The UK Government started with a few months of generous support, and then extended the job retention scheme. It has now moved to abandon it at the end of this month and replace it with measures which are of no use at all to businesses and their employees where the furlough remains full-time because of the nature of the pandemic and the specific sector.

You would imagine many people who have been unable to travel abroad this year, whether because of job commitments and quarantine requirements or a wariness of things going wrong, will be desperate to go overseas as this becomes more straightforward. Especially with the backcloth of an insular Brexit Britain.

The planes are still there, as are the hotels. It would make sense, in an international context, for governments to recognise this is a sector that has been affected solely by the pandemic and was not otherwise in any danger and protect as much of the capacity as possible. It will be through protection of the supply side that travel will be kept affordable.

Do we really want to turn the clock back decades to a state of affairs where travel was a luxury only the wealthy could afford, having come so far? International tourism is crucial to employment and economies around the world, including those of Scotland and the UK as a whole, as well as being important to people’s mental health and crucially also advantageous in providing exposure to different cultures and a broader perspective on life.

The implication from those who would advocate the end of furlough support for those in sectors such as cinema or air travel and international tourism or hospitality more generally who cannot work at least one-third of their hours is that these jobs are somehow not “viable”. This is a ridiculous suggestion, yet it is not clear Mr Sunak realises it is.

The focus must be on how the incomes of people in these sectors and others similarly affected are supported and how businesses are kept afloat until things hopefully become much easier with a vaccine. To suggest no one will be going abroad or to the cinema, as we supposedly “build back better” is frankly utterly incredible. And an extension of the furlough scheme that runs out at the end of this month still seems like a good way of supporting jobs and protecting the supply side of the economy (although this will be too late for many) if only the Tories would realise. It is their scheme.

The spectacular inadequacy of UK Government support for jobs has been thrown into stark relief with the Scottish Government’s closure of pubs in Central Scotland to slow the spread of coronavirus and the broader restrictions on the hospitality sector north of the Border announced this week. This move looks set to be followed in short order by similar moves in the north of England by the UK Government.

The annoyance of the Scottish hospitality sector is understandable, given the move happened here first. But the narrative that this move north of the Border is somehow the Scottish Government and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making the wrong call looks well wide of the mark, as the expectation Mr Johnson will move to put in place similar measures in parts of England would also indicate.

The big problem is the UK Government does not have any kind of adequate support for jobs in sectors which remain closed, are struggling to reopen, or may have to shut or scale back their operations periodically as the fight against coronavirus continues. The various restrictions and changes to them are undoubtedly difficult to cope with, and businesses deserve huge sympathy. However, proper financial support will be far better than sympathy. The UK Government really needs to show some leadership, and come up with convincing job and business support for the hard winter ahead, given it holds the purse strings. Mr Johnson and Mr Sunak really need to sort this out.