MONDAY was a day of contrasts when it came to significant events with major ramifications for the future health of the UK economy.

It was, if you like, a case of the good, the bad and the ugly. The bad came from Home Secretary Priti Patel and was perhaps not surprisingly around immigration, even if the tone of the comments was astonishing, but more of that later. At times like these, it seems particularly important to focus on the positives, rather than Conservative Brexiters’ ugly ideology on immigration, although the huge impact of the latter on the economy and society must not be ignored.

The “good” news was desperately needed, and it did not disappoint.

It came from US group Pfizer and BioNTech of Germany. The pair revealed the Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine they have developed has so far proved more than 90 per cent effective in phase three trials.

This was the kind of game-changing development for which so many people have been desperately hoping amid the human tragedy that is the coronavirus pandemic.

As top Scottish economist Jeremy Peat and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon put it, the news signals “light at the end of the tunnel”.

With Europe engulfed by a second wave of coronavirus, and grim daily death tolls sadly back with us again, it will have been increasingly difficult once more for many to see a time beyond this, or a route to that point.

The vaccine news offers very significant hope for the future, amid the current darkness.

There are also a number of other vaccines in late-stage trials, such as that being pursued by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca. We await results from these various trials, and hopefully there will be further good news.

Of course, it will take time for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, and any others which prove successful, to gain final regulatory approval and be rolled out. So life is not going to return to any kind of normality just yet.

However, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine might be available by the year-end. And there are hopes that, by spring or summer next year, things might feel much more like they were before.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell: If UK goose cooked on Brexit, it won’t be Tories who bear brunt

While we must not underestimate the economic misery in store in coming months and probably years, at least there is now much greater hope that a return to normality might not be that far away.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak, after numerous refusals and false starts, last week extended the UK Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, through which the taxpayer supports 80% of the wages and salaries of furloughed workers up to £2,500 a month, until next March. His dilly-dallying will sadly have cost so many people their jobs. Hopefully, his belated realisation of the need for longer-term support can, however, mitigate some of the damage going forward.

Figures published this week by the Office for National Statistics, showing redundancies in the UK reached a record high in the three months to September, surely reflect to a significant degree the effect of Mr Sunak’s previous unfathomable determination to end the furlough scheme by October 31. We will never know how much of the damage in the labour market is the result of the UK Government’s huge failures on job support. However, it is worth contrasting the Conservative Government's persistent unwillingness to extend the furlough scheme in the face of all evidence showing the urgent need to do so and its swift “tapering” of support, before its multiple U-turns, with two-year approaches adopted from early on by France and Germany.

The ONS figures show that, in the three months to September, there were 314,000 redundancies. This was not only an all-time high for a three-month period, but also represented a record increase of 181,000 on the previous quarter.

Graeme Roy, director of the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute, put it well this week: “On the one hand, there are reasons to be optimistic – [the] announcement on the success of the vaccine trials offers the economy a way out of the crisis. On the other hand, the next few months look very challenging for many businesses. And simply surviving will be key.”

He noted the lateness of the UK Government announcements on extending the coronavirus job retention scheme “won’t have helped many employees who will have been made redundant”.

A survey conducted by Fraser of Allander, and published this week in partnership with law firm Addleshaw Goddard, showed nearly 70% of firms in the hard-hit Scottish tourism and hospitality sectors expected to cut jobs by the year-end before the UK Government furlough scheme extension was announced.

This gives an indication of the extent of the chaos arising from the UK Government’s previous intransigence on extending furlough support. It remains to be seen how many of the planned job losses in hospitality and tourism, and across the economy, can be avoided with the extension of the furlough scheme.

Mr Roy said: “The extension of the furlough scheme will certainly help, although a key challenge for many businesses is the lateness [with] which the announcements were made.”

READ MORE: Ian McConnell on Brexit: Stupefying Tory arithmetic and the true, sorry story

This is indeed a huge problem. Surely the UK Government was aware of it?

Mr Peat, meanwhile, flagged various reasons to be optimistic, crucially highlighting likely changes to people’s behaviour if they knew an end to the coronavirus pandemic woe might be in sight.

He also underlined the importance of banks being supportive of businesses on the journey towards that light at the end of the tunnel. The Fraser of Allander survey signalled credit availability was less of a concern now than it was amid and immediately after the global financial crisis of 2008/09. Nevertheless, 56% of Scottish firms are concerned about credit availability.

It was heartening to hear Mr Peat’s views.

Citing a likely boost to household and business confidence from Monday’s vaccine news, he declared: “That should help to sustain consumer expenditure and encourage business investment during the remaining dark days. The global and domestic economies could start edging forward rather than retrenching any further.”

Mr Peat, a former chief economist at Royal Bank of Scotland, declared the “positive vaccine story” meant unemployment and business failures should ultimately be lower than they would be without such news.

He added: “There will be the impact of an expectation that there can be a return to ‘business as usual’ in the not-too-distant future. Businesses, large and small, will anticipate better days ahead and therefore strive to stay in existence in anticipation of a rosier future. Some should even make preparations for the economic recovery, and banks should be more prepared to support businesses rather than being tempted to pull the plugs.

“These businesses should also be more inclined to maintain employment, especially given the continuing support provided by the Chancellor. Taking all this together must mean fewer business failures and lower unemployment than would have been the case without a positive vaccine story.”

This analysis of likely behavioural changes gives much room for hope that things might be far better than they would without the “light at the end of the tunnel” having come into view this week.

READ MORE: Ian McConnell on Brexit: Hectoring Tories should get own house in order on Brexit: Opinion

Mr Peat also flagged “positive repercussions for the projected public finances”.

Although acknowledging “tough times still lie ahead, some businesses will fail, unemployment will rise further and the public finances will be more strained than for decades”, he added: “Finance ministers will be able to anticipate a tapering down of the costs of Covid-mitigating measures significantly earlier than they must have feared. Forecasts for tax revenues should also be hiked, on the grounds that both business revenues (and profits) and household incomes look set to outperform prior expectations.”

All in all, while there was rightly much emphasis from experts of the continuing challenges ahead, there is no doubt the vaccine news on Monday was a crucial moment in the world’s fight against the pandemic.

Pfizer executive chairman Albert Bourla declared: “Today is a great day for science and humanity.”

Lamentably, while others were celebrating hope for the future, Ms Patel seemed absurdly focused on what is an utterly detrimental move in terms of UK society and the country’s future prosperity and living standards. It is, not surprisingly, a Conservative Government move.

She appeared from an external perspective to do nothing short of gloat over the imminent end of free movement of people between the UK and EU. This end has been facilitated by the Conservatives’ Brexit folly. Freedom of movement has provided a major boost to the UK economy, as well as society, over years and decades. Its ending is a very sad development. And it is a truly ugly moment, which sums up the miserable ideology of arch-Brexiters.

Ms Patel also conjured up the “will of the British people”. With the US election result still fresh in the mind, this was a reminder that the populism championed by Donald Trump looks like it has a long way to run on this side of the Atlantic.

As much of the rest of the world was celebrating the vaccine news, Ms Patel tweeted on Monday: “After many years of campaigning, I am delighted the Immigration Bill which will end free movement on 31st December has today passed through Parliament. We are delivering on the will of the British people.”

Dear oh dear.