In what was another sombre day in the UK, we watched on social media as the fenestration industry began shutting down. One after another, not long after the Prime Minister’s address, I watched as my social media timelines started to fill with companies declaring that they would close in order to comply with the new guidance and to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
It was quite a momentous thing to watch. As an industry we have faced tough times in the past, but nothing can compare to the scale and size of what we’re all being asked to do. It is going to cause damage to the economy, records are likely to be smashed in a negative sense. Its likely some companies may not be able to make it through the lockdown period. But as an industry, nearly all of us are doing the right thing in closing our doors until things out there improve.
I can’t include every single statement by every company, it would take an impossible amount of time. But here are some of the announcements made by some of the more well known names in our sector:
Tough, but right decision
No one last night will have made that decision lightly. The amount of disruption it causes to immediately close a company is immense. Deliveries, invoices, installations, production, service calls, processing and more, all in total limbo. If you were part of the team at any company trying to make sense of it all before you closed today for the foreseeable future, you have my total sympathy.
In the end though, although manufacturing and construction was exempted from the list of sectors that had to close, in the main UK fenestration closed its doors as part of the wider national effort to help prevent the spread of what is a nasty disease. It was a softly softly approach by the PM last night. He didn’t want to use the word “lockdown”, but he wanted sectors who weren’t included in the exempt list to do the right thing and close anyway. We know that this is the first stage of lockdown, and we know it probably should have been a fortnight ago, but the Government is trying to tread the finest of lines between appearing to be authoritarian, caring, strict and fair. Not easy.
A few remained open, stating that they were essential. Some questioned it. However in a few weeks time, instead of these measures being reviewed and relaxed, they’re more likely to be increased further. We saw constructions workers congregating in large groups on a site in Battersea, as shown on Sky News, before they quickly closed it down. We saw packed tube trains again in London. The right thing to do would have been for all companies who were genuinely not essential to send their workers home. Our industry has no end of personalities and trade bodies, but there is little coming and it should have been shouted loud and clear that in this national effort, send your workers home. Whether you’re on construction, fenestration or any other form of manufacturing.
I’ve also seen in a few spots the claim that in 12 weeks this health crisis might be over. I cannot be clearer when I say: no it will not. When Boris spoke originally, which was around a couple of weeks ago now, he said we had 12 weeks in which to stem the spread of the virus, and to try to flatten the curve. Since then, large portions of the population did not listen, for example filling the pubs last Friday after it was announced that they were to be shut. The amount of damage done in that single day could be huge. We have less than 12 weeks now. But this three month period is when the virus spread is the most intense. Once we get to the peak, which is due to hit in late May to early June, we’ll be getting daily stats updates that we dare not dream to consider. When that peak starts to dip, this does not mean the end of the crisis. Its likely that lockdown or social distancing measures, as was highlighted in the recent SAGE reports, would last around a year. So for anyone claiming this is going to be over in 12 weeks, you’re wrong. Plan for an extended stay at home.
In other parts of construction, such as home builders, many took the decision to down tools and go home. Commerical construction continues, but unless involved on critical infrastructure projects, I suspect most of this area of construction will shut soon as well.
This is going to be a long haul, and March already feels three months long. Time to get creative!
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