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Jeremy's Blog 06/11/20: Lockdowns and business

This blog by Jeremy Moody first appeared in the CAAV e-Briefing of 5th November 2020.

England today joins Wales and Northern Ireland with new country-wide restrictions on social and economic life while Scotland’s Tiers were introduced on Tuesday, all responding to a rising Covid-19 incidence. Each country has struck its own difficult balance between disease control and continuity of activity and business. Ireland, France, Belgium and others have taken severe measures.

This English lockdown differs from the spring. It follows this autumn’s Tiers in focusing restrictions on social and private life and less on much business, especially services. Schools stay open, removing the concept of a key or essential worker used then to justify whose children could have school places releasing them for work. Property market activity is permitted and construction can continue.

Work, education, provisioning and several social purposes are legal reasons for leaving home where reasonably necessary (for work, where it is not reasonably possible to do it from home). Other rules, including allowances for work and education, apply to “gatherings” of more than two people. This level of control over a complex society retaining the rule of law inevitably creates situations that may appear anomalous.

The most severe business restrictions are on hospitality and the on-premises sale of all goods except those permitted. Other activities, from livestock markets to estate agents appear only limited by the rules on leaving home and gatherings but must assess risks and have measures to limit virus transmission.

Frustrating the recovery needed to pay for all, this puts more friction into much business life. As people are less together in offices or meetings, taking negotiated business forward becomes more cumbersome.

That balance between disease control and social and economic damage is not solved by a single lockdown. As mused here two weeks ago - we should prepare for the long haul. We do not know what happens when it is supposed to end. Is it extended or varied? Do we go back to tiers or face a cycle of relaxations and lockdowns into next year, exposing more people while managing pressure on hospitals? While the Government now looks to mass testing (as in Slovakia and to be tried in Liverpool), most hope for a vaccine which, if effective, might be available at scale by Easter. Spain has imposed a State of Emergency running until May.

Throughout this, the CAAV has developed to support continuity of service for members’ continuing professional life, work endorsed by Tuesday’s Council. Beyond that, the clock ticks with only days to any deal with the EU.

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