In what was a widely expected announcement, on Monday evening Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the final stage of the lifting of lockdown, due to take place on June 21st, would be delayed by four weeks to July 19th. It comes as the spread of the Delta variant, first discovered in India, is causing a sharp rise in cases.
Lockdown delayed by four weeks
This wasn’t a surprise. The week before Boris’ announcement the language from Government began to change. A now very recognisable sign that they have changed their mind on something and were subtly letting the public know that.
It’s worth saying though that for all of May and even the first week in June the Government were insisting that there was no reason to delay the lifting of lockdown. Then the data on the Delta variant became more pressing and the Government decided that in the face of rising cases, and I suspect some personal fear from the PM of wanting to avoid once again being accused of deaths that could have been avoided, so they paused the lifting for at least four weeks.
This is not a post to debate the merits of their actions. That debate can be had in the cesspit that is social media and all the garbage that comes with trying to have a grown-up conversation on there.
Naturally, it was met with despair and frustration by those sectors that it would affect. Namely the indoor events sector, hospitality, sports venues and so on. There are one or two exceptions, but nothing that makes a huge difference to the national picture. Weddings can now have more than 30 guests but are still limited to a certain degree depending on the capacity of the venue, and there are a few more outdoor events that will be used as pilots such as Wimbledon. But that’s as far as it goes.
For the fenestration sector, nothing really changes. One or two events may well now be postponed or cancelled, and you have to question the wisdom behind organising something before the crisis was meaningfully over.
In terms of what this could mean for our sector, what it does is keeps the public in the status quo. Foreign travel remains pretty much off for most people, which continues to leave lots of spare cash for people to spend on other big-ticket items, such as new windows and doors and other home improvements. It means that demand is going to be set very high for a prolonged period of time. I have written recently that some parts of our sector believe we are at the start of a three-year cycle of high home improvement demand, and that if this is the case we need to find ways to scale up to make the most of the opportunities coming up.
The final delay?
During the press conference on Monday, the PM was pressed on whether this really will be the final delay to the lifting of lockdown. He then came out with the term “terminus”. For anyone who knows anything about trying to avoid a direct answer, this is how you dress up an answer to a question that sounds like you have answered it, but have really left the door open for a bit of wiggle room.
He also said, when asked again about the potential for another delay, that “from what I can see” there should be no reason for further delays. Consider that up until the start of June he was also saying that in the face of rising cases.
So whilst we all now have July 19th in our minds, there is no absolute guarantee that there won’t be another one. Indeed, during an exchange in the House of Commons earlier on Wednesday, there was an interesting snippet of information dropped by Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. He told the Commons that the text in the Govt vote held tonight to pass the delay mentioned that this four-week delay was to assess the data against the Government’s four tests and only then would a decision be made on whether to delay again or end lockdown. Therefore, it is perfectly feasible to imagine a scenario where the data may not be great in a few weeks time, which could lead the Government to continue to delay the lifting of lockdown. For me, this is not cut and dry at all.
In our little corner of the economy, in fenestration, we simply need to all keep focus on this single most important priority for us all which is the supply of products and raw materials to do all we can to make sure the chain keeps moving. What will happen will happen and is not in our control. We have very immediate and pressing matters to deal with.
Plus, England vs Scotland is coming up soon, so plenty to talk about there I am sure!
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