Barely two weeks after deriding the idea of a new national lockdown as “the height of absurdity” and a policy that would that would inflict unnecessary “misery” on the public and would “turn the lights out”, on Saturday 31 October, prime minister Boris Johnson made a major U-turn and announced that a national lockdown would in fact be introduced for one month from 5 November.
Despite the inevitable dislocation as a result of this new lockdown, one key difference from the previous lockdown ordered earlier this year is the fact that the PM has explicitly said that construction and manufacturing should continue, with the latest government guidance confirming this by stating that workers in these industries should continue to travel to work and attend their workplace.
This recognition of the need to keep providing and maintaining the construction projects and other vital infrastructure that people depend on and the crucial importance of keeping construction workers employed and keeping the economy going is to be welcomed and is vital for the future recovery.
In a letter to the construction industry today, Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) said: “We have demonstrated that the entire industry depends on the flow of money and materials and that it is essential that product manufacturers, builders merchants and distributors keep operating so that we have the materials to build and repair our homes, hospitals and services. It is imperative that this happens.
“During the recent times of the pandemic we have demonstrated that a wide range of construction types can be done safely – for our workers and the general public around us, and as an industry we have a huge responsibility to do the very best that we can at this very difficult time.”
Commenting on the new lockdown, Hannah Vickers, chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering, said: “No one wants to go through a second lockdown. However, we need to recognise that a stop/start approach to wider economic activity is currently the only effective tool we have for managing infection rates.”
“Bearing all of this in mind, we are pleased to see the continuation of the furlough scheme, and I will be stressing the importance of ongoing support in my regular meetings with government and the civil service. Lockdown brings a period of stability - for both our members and local authorities - and an opportunity to plan ahead, build confidence in the forward pipeline and lay the foundations for economic recovery.”