The start of the year hasn’t been the new start everyone had been hoping for. The pandemic rages on, the country is in lockdown and the daily death toll is intolerably high. There is one positive however and that is the rate of vaccination in the country is ramping up in a big way and it looks like the Government will hit their target of 15m vulnerable people vaccinated by mid-February.

As we all desperately look towards the summer and some form of freedom, media outlets over the weekend were reporting that social distancing measures would have to remain in place all year. As well as this having an impact on what we might or might not be able to do in the months to come, this will continue to have an effect on how the world of fenestration operates as well.

On-site precautions

When it comes to the installation side of our sector, if social distancing measures are to remain it will mean installers will have to continue to ensure they stick to the procedures they have in place now. It means regular hand washing, keeping distance away from homeowners whilst in their homes, and the likelihood of wearing masks.

There has been a lot of scrutiny during the course of this lockdown as to whether social distancing measures are being followed whilst working on-site, not only in this sector but in construction in general. There has been a great deal of pressure applied from decision-makers at the head of companies for staff and workers to follow the rules else risk further restrictions being placed upon the industry. During the height of the debate, there was a fairly tense split emerging between those going into homes to do the work versus those in charge. The optics became tricky to manage as decision-makers touted letters from BEIS Minister Kwasi Kwarteng promoting staying open, as workers became louder about the risks they were facing during their workday and accusations of sites not adhering to safety measures stacked up.

In offices, it may also mean COVID-secure measures such as screens, washing stations and staggered lunchtimes will stay for the rest of 2021. It’s also likely that working from home will be an option for many as companies have become used to different ways of working.

If measures like this are to remain in place, will there even be office Christmas parties at the end of the year?

Large gatherings

In an article in the Telegraph over the weekend, and mirrored in other publications, there has been the suggestion that large gatherings would not be permitted throughout the entirety of 2021.

The reasoning for this comes down to new modelling from a subset of the Government’s SAGE group, Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M). They warn that if restrictions were lifted in mid-February, then the UK would be hit with another large wave of infections and then deaths. The consensus from scientists seems to be that the vaccine will cut transmission by 60%. Their best-case scenario is 85%. But at 60% it would likely mean large gatherings would not be permitted throughout this year. You can read more from the Telegraph article here.

When it comes to office Christmas parties, and indeed larger industry events, this will spell difficulty and likely lead to many turning to alternative methods to host events rather than them being in person. It means 2022 is likely to be the year where more events are able to take place, assuming the vaccination programme is as effective as many hope it will be.

Outside of the industry, other large events such as Glastonbury, one of the world’s biggest festivals, has been cancelled for another year. For those of us looking for a live music fix it, we may have to wait another year.

Some freedoms

Over the weekend the Government was sounding hopeful that we could look forward to a more normal-feeling summer. What that looks like we won’t know until we get there. But we can hope that mixing between households can resume with relative freedom. Should we have a summer like we did last year we should be able to enjoy plenty of BBQs and drinks with family and friends in lots of newly landscaped gardens!

The question of holidays is still up in the air. Some reports say foreign holidays are unlikely this year, with UK locations now in very high demand for later this year. Some believe that short haul holidays might be a possibility come the summer, but trying to predict any of this is almost impossible as the pandemic often throws up curveballs at random moments to change the game.

So, keep that hand gel close by and masks in the car and coat pockets, looks like 2021 might look very much like 2020.

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