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Easing the Coronavirus lockdown for businesses

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The Coronavirus lockdown is scheduled for review on the 7th May, at which time, the country will have been in lockdown for 6 weeks and a further extension of the lockdown is expected to be announced.

Here are some suggestions to help businesses and organisations prepare now, to ensure they are ready to run instantly, as soon as restrictions start to ease.

 

 

 

What needs to happen before the lockdown can be eased?

The government have set 5 tests to be satisfied before the lockdown can be relaxed;

  1. The NHS is able to cope
  2. A sustained fall in deaths
  3. New infections dropping enough
  4. Adequate testing and PPE
  5. No risk of a second peak

Decisions taken by the government will be based on the best available scientific and health advice and when restrictions are relaxed, if the virus spikes again, lockdown could have to return with little notice.

Whilst limiting spread of the virus is the immediate and key concern, other factors also need to be considered, such as; the mental health of the nation, the escalation of domestic abuse and the impact of the continued lockdown on the UK economy among others.

There is no doubt that our way of life and business operation will be impacted for many months to come, and return to normal, may well only be achieved when a proven vaccination is available for widespread use.

In the short term, to support any easing of the current lockdown restrictions, UK policy is focussed on a Test, Track and Trace strategy

The UK government is hiring 18,000 human contact tracers and will encourage people to download an NHS app. which they hope to launch over the coming weeks
(Australia are taking a similar approach and are launching their own Contact Tracing App. this week, whilst Germany plan a similar type of App to launch in June)

Once the NHS App is implemented, the system should notify people when they have been in contact with a Covid-19 carrier, so that they can immediately isolate and stop it spreading further.

The mobile-phone based app, will utilise Bluetooth technology to log each time your phone moves near another persons phone loaded with the app. If one of those people is later diagnosed with Covid-19, you would get an alert warning you to get tested and to self-isolate.

 

How will the lockdown be eased?

Whilst at present there are no concrete UK guidelines as to how or when restrictions may be relaxed, looking at how other countries (and parts of the UK such as Scotland and Wales), are approaching an easing of the lockdown, here are some thoughts on what UK policy may entail;

Easing by Location?

There are certainly some parts of the country suffering more than others, which may be down to a number of factors such as; population density, average age levels, a large presence of ethnic groups, and so on, so easing measures according to location, could be a consideration.

Easing by Market Sector or Business / Organisation Type?

Whilst few if any businesses remain unscathed by COVID-19, market sectors such as Retail, Sport, Tourism & Leisure, Pubs & Restaurants and industries such as Hairdressing, Beauty and Fashion, among others, have experienced devastating loss of income since the lockdown started.

It seems logical therefore that some relaxation is needed as soon as practical to avert widespread failure of businesses in these sectors which could result in a subsequent significant rise in unemployment and a high level of business failures.

Inevitably, it will be easier to relax restrictions in some sectors than in others, but any relaxation will probably require businesses to modify the way they work, such as applying social distancing measures, etc. in order to protect staff and customers.

Easing by Population Age

Whilst everyone is potentially at risk of contracting the virus, the elderly are statistically at a higher risk than younger people, of it proving fatal.

Whilst relaxing restrictions for younger age groups may seem an attractive option, we should remember that many businesses rely heavily on the skills and knowledge of older staff members to operate effectively, and there are many people in the UK, passed retirement age, who out of choice or financial necessity are still working.

 

So which businesses or organisations are likely to be first to see some easing?

We don’t have a crystal ball, so there are no guarantees, but based on our conversations with other businesses and considering how other countries have approached relaxing restrictions, it seems likely that there will be an early focus on reopening schools, non-essential shops, restarting construction and boosting manufacturing capacity among others.

 

What changes may be needed to the way a business operates as any relaxation is introduced?

Maximising people safety and minimising the risk of spreading the virus, will be a key focus for any business or organisation reopening under any relaxation of the current restrictions. Requirements are likely to include some or all of the following;

 

  • Ensuring that social distancing can be maintained – between staff, between customers or visitors, and between staff and customers or visitors
    (in schools this could apply to pupils and teachers, etc).

    This could involve providing distance marker guides (consider; floor tapes or marking paint, temporary barriers, traffic cones, etc.)

    Introducing in-store One-Way Systems to minimise close customer contact (consider temporary barriers and extra signage)

    Restricting the number of people in store at any one time (this may require use of nominated door staff and restricting the number of entry points)

    Limiting the number of employees at workplaces at any one time – this could mean introducing a shift working system, allowing selected staff to work from home, continuing to furlough some staff, etc.

  • Equipping staff with personal protective equipment such as face masks and disposable gloves, erecting clear protective screens at cash tills, and encouraging customers to pay by card rather than cash

  • Requiring customers entering certain stores such as pharmacies and supermarkets, to wear a face mask, as is required in some European countries.

  • Regular and frequent cleansing of all high touch surfaces including; door handles, hand rails, counters, store provided shopping baskets or trolleys, buttons or bells, telephones and computer keyboards, etc.
    Note; a surface cleansing sanitizer with a 75% alcohol content will be required to meet W.H.O and government guidelines.

  • Provision of hand washing / hand sanitizer and face masks for staff use - it should not be necessary (or operationally desirable) to use medical quality face masks, as this could lead to shortages of supply of essential high-performance masks for Frontline Carers and NHS staff

 

Could we see a new lockdown?

Following any relaxation of the lockdown restrictions, any sign of virus escalation could cause an instant reinstatement of the lockdown with minimal warning.

 

The Future;

In reality, we can expect to experience an uncertain lifestyle for many months to come. This really means, until a proven and widespread vaccination programme becomes available, or a proven treatment can be identified and made available to reduce the level of fatalities among those contracting the virus.

In the meanwhile, we must all continue to do what we can to minimise the risk of virus spread.

On a positive note, we should of course all remember and appreciate the many good things to have come from the current situation, including;

  • The innumerable good deeds performed by people, as reported via the news on a daily basis,

  • The generosity of the public to contribute to charities, and the NHS, etc, both financially and by volunteering their services.

  • The significant reduction of fossil fuel use (less car, ship, aeroplane travel, etc), which is actively reducing the level of pollution in our atmosphere

  • The creative and innovative ways that people have adapted to the lockdown

 

Although we are confident that our government are working really hard on plans to ease the lockdown, they currently appear unwilling to share their thoughts with businesses or the UK population.

The thoughts expressed in this article are therefore based on personal observations and assessments, which we hope may help other businesses in formulating their own plans and preparations for the future.

If you have any views or thoughts which you would like to share, we would be delighted to hear from you (please email; covid19@insight-security.com).

Meanwhile, please follow the government lockdown guidelines, and Stay Safe

 

Here are some practical links that you may find helpful;

Business Security Tips for Coronavirus Lockdown

Coronavirus Sanitisation Guidelines for Homes and Businesses

COVID-19 Surface Sanitiser (75% alcohol)

 

This message was added on Monday 27th April 2020

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