When the going gets tough, the tough get going

Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward to what they were before

The six months thing was a bit of an ‘ouch’ moment, but part from that, the Prime Minister’s address to the nation last night didn’t really tell us anything that we weren’t expecting. Those of us who’d sat through the Chris and Patrick (Whitty and Vallance) Two-Ronnies double-header earlier in the day knew pretty much what was coming.

Those of us who can work from home are now encouraged once again to do so. Indoor team sports are to be restricted to the Rule of Six. The pubs have to close at 10pm. Just like they used to in the olden days of yore when I first started going out drinking. Last orders were 10.30pm during the week, 11pm on a Friday and Saturday and 10pm on a Sunday. You had 10 minutes to drink up and then that was it, you were turfed out on your ear.

The idea is that we try and restrict our close interactions with others to limit the opportunity of the Covid-19 virus being transmitted any further or faster than it is already. A shorter time spent in the pub will, in theory, reduce the transmission opportunity. I know there are commentators who say that it will just mean everyone starts drinking earlier, so it won’t solve anything but I’m not sure that’s true. It might start out like that but eventually it will settle back. By and large, if you’re just going out for a few drinks, you go at a time that’s convenient to you and the people you are meeting. I would suggest that if I told my family that dinner would need to be at 5pm instead of 7pm because I had to go out at 6pm, in order get my full hours’ drinking in, they would rightly conclude that Covid-transmission was the least of my problems.

The messages are muddled, it’s true. Poor old Dominic Raab got in a bit of mess when he couldn’t quite work out today whether the table-service only rule would include a sandwich at Pret or not and the mixing of households is bound to go on the naughty list at some point; I’m re-thinking the size of the Christmas turkey I’m going to need to order from the butcher.

I suspect Rishi Sunak may be forced to delve around the back of the 11 Downing Street sofa for some spare change to help extend the furlough scheme in one or two sectors – hospitality, events and, probably, sports clubs – but for the rest of us, it’s lockdown-lite, whether we like it or not. It won’t be as bad as last time, partly because the restrictions aren’t as onerous. I’m happy for my neighbours to dob me in if I have a house party; in April they could have done so had I been spotted going to the shop and a run in the same day.

When the first lockdown happened, we had no idea how we were going to handle it. Now we do. We know how to conduct meetings and conferences via Zoom and Microsoft teams. The BMF AGM and Conference last week was s a case in point: it wasn’t the same, but it was pretty damn good under the circumstances and at least I didn’t have to get up at stupid o’clock to get there.

Think about the changes that have been made in our businesses since March to cope with the pandemic: Perspex screens, masks, social distancing, hand sanitizers are only part of the ways that the industry has coped. Contactless PODs, shorter focussed online training programmes to keep customers up to speed on new products, quick catch-up virtual meetings – with or without cameras – have all helped to keep the industry going. And we know, that merchants and manufacturers count as essential services. We got that commitment from government and that’s not going to change.

It’s been tough. It’s still tough. It’s going to continue to be tough. But hang in there. You got this.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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