The costs of the coronavirus pandemic will – first and foremost – be counted in the tragic number of lives prematurely lost, as well the second order health impacts it has imposed. Certainly, it is only correct these receive paramount attention.

It would be imprudent to fail to consider the economic damage which the virus is also inflicting, however. At the Centre for Policy Studies, we have been tallying up the costs of the myriad different government schemes which have been announced in the wake of the coronavirus, as well as estimating the likely toll on government receipts caused principally by the inevitable contraction in economic activity.

In the end, we arrived at a quite staggering figure – £246 billion. This is split roughly equally between costs incurred in directly mitigating the virus and paying for the lockdown, and revenues to the Treasury forgone.

The two single biggest costs are the loss of receipts from income taxes and National Insurance Contributions (£57 billion alone), and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (£42 billion) which pays for furloughed workers.

Although, a disclaimer should be added: the true cost might well be even higher – more schemes could yet be announced, and how robustly the economy bounces back is anyone’s guess.

It should be made clear that the government was right to step in and put the economy on hold. It does not vindicate the socialist left that it did so, but rather acknowledges that in extreme times where there is a patent threat to public health, a government is justified in taking measures such as those unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in recent weeks. When the government effectively bans most businesses from trading, it’s only legitimate to compensate them as a result.

Nor was our research an exercise in sniping, as if to expose any profligacy within the government. Simply, we sought to clearly set out the costs the country is now saddled with, in the hope that this allows more informed policy making to follow once it is safe to transition back to normality.

Indeed, that is very much where the debate now stands. Figures on all sides, not least the new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, have called for the government to map out a blueprint to ending the lockdown, and how it will get the economy moving once it is over.

Predictably, the usual suspects are already clamouring for higher taxes and ever more borrowing as the means to shore up the national balance sheet. This dogma is no way to support an enfeebled economy, and must be resisted. At the Centre for Policy Studies, we affirm that growing the economy is the only sustainable way to generate the wealth necessary to repair the damage which has already been caused by the pandemic. The question, therefore, is how to achieve that.

Already in the past year, we’ve published a host of papers detailing policies which could help in that regard. Ahead of the recent Budget which contained so many of the initial measures to deal with coronavirus, we noted how judicious cuts to things like sprits duties and income taxes can counterintuitively raise revenues for the Treasury, as economic activity increases.

Prior to that, we added our voice to the growing number of calls to introduce “full expensing”, which would treat investment in capital goods such as industrial plants and machinery more fairly. That would be a particular blessing to hard-pressed manufacturing businesses across the country, who have doubtlessly been hit more than their counterparts in the services sector. We also showed how reducing stamp duty could stimulate house building, helping the construction sector while also bringing down the cost of living.

Over the next few months, we will be publishing yet more work on how the government can support businesses through these troubling times. We are also teaming up with the former chancellor, Sajid Javid, on a major project which will examine the fundamentals of our economy and how to put it onto a surer footing.

The coronavirus has dealt a seismic blow to Britain’s economy, and the impacts will be deep and long-lasting. Our research outlines the scale of damage to the economy, and clarifies the magnitude of the problem with which we’re faced. When the lockdown does eventually end, the government needs to be bold, and go for a growth-boosting agenda to get the country’s finances fighting fit again.

Eamonn Ives is a researcher at the Centre for Policy Studies, which yesterday published The Costs of Coronavirus.