Two years on
23 March 2022
Question: What were you doing two years ago today?
Answer: You were coming to terms with the first coronavirus lockdown during what Boris Johnson described at the time as a moment of national emergency, and “the biggest threat this country has faced for decades.”
The prime minister had said, “I must give the British people a very simple instruction - you must stay at home. Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.”
As we all know, from that day on for several months, people could only leave home for essential purposes. Employees were supported by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and furloughed with the Government covering 80% of workers’ wages, initially until May 2020 but later extended and modified until October 2021.
This blog was started to monitor how hirers helped with the response and to report on the welfare of industry professionals. Since then, of course, the business bounce-back has been as remarkable as it was unexpected.
It has certainly proved to be an unprecedented period in history and to date there have been many developments in the pandemic story.
Just some of them covered on the blog have included what was termed Lockdown 2.0 when non-essential shops and services closed again, the development of Covid-19 vaccines, the Delta variant, the UK government’s lifting of Covid-19 restrictions which turned out to be premature, the fast spreading Omicron variant, the announcement of a ‘road map’ out of lockdown, and the ending of Covid restrictions in England as the world hoped to live with Covid.
It’s also almost also exactly two years ago since the first drive-through coronavirus test centres were established, with literally hundreds more set up subsequently. The vast majority of the equipment for them was supplied and installed by Sunbelt Rentals, a truly monumental achievement.
Of course, many hirers and suppliers have tackled other challenges during the pandemic, too.
Just a few include: how hirers adapted their operations to meet new Covid-19 health and safety guidelines, such as Beaver Tool Hire (Chichester) and One Stop Hire devising one-way customer queuing systems and sanitising facilities. Others, like Miles Hire, developed comprehensive online equipment ordering and collection services to avoid customer contact.
We’ve seen companies showing massive generosity and reaching out to others, such as The Hireman which immediately cleared all the PPE from its shelves and sent it to local NHS hospitals when the first lockdown was announced. And specialist accommmodation and container hirer Mobile Mini opened special units as drop-off points for food bank collections.
And amongst all that, Brexit was concluded at the end of 2020.
Science’s astonishingly fast achievements mean that a combination of vaccines and vigilance to protect the vulnerable is now enabling people to move forward towards a ‘new normal’.
On the hugely positive side, industry professionals are now able to do business more freely. And we can go to exhibitions again! We've already seen a successful Executive Hire Show staged last month, and other events on the horizon include Futureworx, Scotplant, Vertikal Days and Hillhead. And above all, hirers and suppliers are busy.
However, no sooner has one historic challenge receded than another has appeared. In a darkly ironic coincidence, on 24 February 2022 - when the UK government lifted remaining coronavirus restrictions - Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.
Besides the appalling loss of life and human suffering, the war has led to sanctions on Russia, energy price spikes and fuel costs reaching unprecedented – there’s that word again – levels.
Against a background of steeply rising inflation, higher interest rates, supply chain disruptions and likely commodities shortages, the need for good business management and sound decision making remains as vital as ever.
What will the next two years bring us?
Picture shows the Prime Minister's statement on coronavirus (Covid-19) on 20 March 2020. Credit: 10 Downing Street / Wikimedia Commons.