The title of this particular article was different. However during the course of the past 24 hours the picture nationally has changed so much that I had to scrap and re-write this entire thing to reflect the state of things right now. And even by the time this is out, things might have changed once again!
We’re 24 hours after the PM announced the new three-tier COVID alert system across England and already there is intense scrutiny on the new system and claims that even more restrictions are already being planned.
This is what we know, what is being pondered, and what it all might mean for fenestration.
The three tiers
This is a brief explanation of each of the tiers according to Sky News:
There are one or two nuances depending on which areas you might live in, but this more or less covers the main points of each tier. Its worth noting that for areas such as Leeds, which has one of the highest infection rates in the country, their placing in Tier 2 actually represents a slight decreasing of restrictions compared to what they were before this was put into place. Although there are already signs that this situation won’t last for much longer.
As I understand it, areas of Lancashire and Greater Manchester may be only days away from being placed into Tier 3 restrictions. A Gold Command meeting in Government tomorrow is due to discuss this and I suspect we’ll hear shortly after if these areas are to be upgraded. Area in both Lancashire and Greater Manchester have very high infection rates right now.
From what I have read, none of this actually affects fenestration and our ability to operate. Even in Tier 3 areas. Retails, of which installation companies would be classed, are still allowed to operate. What this should serve as is a severe warning to all of us to continue to take this seriously. Far too many homeowners have told us that our own installation business seems to be the only one that they have come across that uses masks, still operates social distancing, has modified office space etc.
However, pressure is already being put on these new restrictions. During the 7pm press conference, Professor Chris Whitty explained quite clearly that in his opinion the three-tiered approach wasn’t going to be enough to bring the virus under control. Something I’m sure would have made the PM quite uncomfortable. Then, about an hour or so later, SAGE released their latest guidance given to Government in September, where it was revealed they had recommended a two or three week “circuit breaker” full lockdown, leaving schools open but businesses to close. That has obviously not been acted upon right now, and tests the “following the science” mantra of the Government.
Since then, the leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Lib Dems Sir Ed Davey and the London Mayor Sadiq Khan have all tonight called for the circuit breaker to be implemented in time for the English October half-term break. In Sir Keir’s plans, he said he would keep schools open, but close offices as well as all hospitality, essentially bringing us back to the situation we had in March and April. He also said that businesses should be compensated for doing so.
The issue now is that Boris Johnson has almost immediately come under fire from all sides for this new tiered plan. Parts of his own party think he’s already gone too far. The opposition, including SAGE, think he’s not gone far enough. Right now it seems as though the most noise and pressure is coming down on the side supporting further measures.
We’re going to hear a lot about circuit-breakers in the coming days. These are designed to be short, sharp, full lockdowns designed to give the healthcare system and test and trace the chance to regroup and get on top of the situation. Those proposing the idea acknowledge that they’re not enough to stamp out the virus completely. Its meant to allow some breathing room to allow us to scale back the scope of the virus.
Northern Ireland and Wales are actively considering the measures. For Scotland, it’s still on the table. SAGE has proposed it, Labour, the Lib Dems and the London Mayor are all publicly calling for it. It does seem as though the momentum is with the circuit-breakers.
What this would look like remains to be seen. Last night Sir Keir Starmer said that for him it should include offices as well as hospitality and leisure venues. He said that all businesses should be compensated for asking to be closed, similar to the first lockdown. He said schools and Universities should remain open during this time.
That is one iteration of a full lockdown. If this were to play out, it would have implications on fenestration as offices being asked to close would likely make it hard for businesses to operate. If this scenario, it would be likely that installers would not be allowed inside a customer’s house. It may be that outdoor construction sites could remain open due to the type of work they do.
This is all speculation at the moment. What we’re likely to see is the debate about whether this is required played out in public. It has already been pointed out that the three-tiered system is already in place in France for a number of weeks. On Saturday they recorded 26,000+ cases.
The debate about COVID-19 is also becoming the next divisive issue after Brexit. Social media often tears itself apart over it, and opinion is polarised on both sides. If we’re going to talk about this, we need to remember to keep it civil and consider that those expressing worry about the situation may well be in a vulnerable category themselves or might be using social media as a way to vent their feelings.
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