Cast your mind back to Monday 23rd March… We all gathered around our televisions, radios and computer screens to listen to the unprecedented broadcast from Boris Johnson to say that we must stay home, and for those who flout the rules, the government had given powers to the police to impose fines.
Limitations were placed upon us concerning where we can go, who we can see, and how much daily exercise we could take. Our workplaces closed so we worked from home or were furloughed, and visits to those we loved were postponed.
And so we adjusted – we stayed home, we learnt how to home-school, we “worked out” with Joe Wicks, and we got a little obsessed with taking our daily walk. We clapped for the NHS on Thursdays and learnt how to queue for supermarkets. We learnt new skills in the kitchen – making pasta and baking bread. We discovered new ways of connecting with our families online, and had fun with Zoom quizzes and making TikTok videos.
Many of us can relate to the term now coined the “Corona-coaster” the ups and downs felt throughout lockdown.
Sadly, for some – we have lost loved ones. Many of us have fallen ill, some seriously, with long-lasting effects.
We have felt the strain of staying home, not seeing family and friends, and work worries. We have felt the claustrophobia of seeing the same four walls for weeks on end.
Now, almost ten weeks later, like the clouds, and our spirits are starting to lift a little.
While of course the future, both immediate and long term is still feeling delicate and uncertain, the government have started to announce plans to “re-open the UK” – with a little normality starting to return.
We are all excited to start making our plans for later in the summer and beyond and making tentative arrangements to see those who we have missed.
We take a look at how the UK is planning to come out of lockdown, and what this may mean both now, and in the longer term.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has published a 51 page “roadmap” for moving Britain out of the CV-19 lockdown. Set out as a three-phase strategy, it outlines the plans to gradually lift current restrictions, and get life back to a little more what looks like normal.
In a foreword to the dossier, Johnson says that it is “a plan that should give the people of the United Kingdom hope – hope that we can rebuild; hope that we can save lives: hope that we can safeguard livelihoods”.
He goes on to say, “So this plan seeks to return life to as close to normal as possible, for as many people as possible, as fast and fairly as possible, in a way that is safe and continues to protect our NHS”.
While most of us won’t quite be reading this pretty weighty document – in practice – here’s a summary of what the easing of restrictions currently looks like.
Easing of UK Lockdown – what’s happening when – key highlights
While of course there are no easy answers, and some parts of the plans will no doubt change and adapt, many of us will welcome some of the measures announced in the document. We have already seen some of the toughest rules being loosened a little, but here is an overview of what may happen and when.
What are the lockdown rules now?
Since 11th May, some easing of the previous restrictions has already taken place. The government has encouraged businesses that can open while socially distancing safely to do so – such as those in construction, manufacturing, logistics and distribution. Workers who cannot work from home may return to these businesses, however, we are still encouraged to work from home where we can.
Easing on rules surrounding outdoor exercise has also been introduced, allowing us to once again enjoy our open spaces with picnics, and being able to drive to areas where we wish to enjoy the outdoors. We are now allowed to meet with a single member of another household as long as social distancing takes place.
Schools, on the whole, remain closed to most pupils, however, plans are starting to take place to re-open.
What are the plans for easing of lockdown?
As we move forward, there’s more to hopefully look forward to. As set out in the roadmap mentioned above, non-essential retail could open up soon as long as the stores are considered to be safe enough for shoppers.
Primary schools have started to open for reception Year 1 and Year six, but with smaller classes.
Events like the Premier League will be able to take place behind closed doors to be shown on TV from June, and even businesses such as hairdressers, pubs, and restaurants could be open from July 4th as long as they meet Covid secure requirements. All helping to put some function back into the UK economy.
Great news for many as the prospect of friends and families mixing in “bubbles” has been floated in the document also.
While of course, a lot of these plans are subject to change should infections increase, or the dreaded “second wave” emerge – for a lot of the UK, a return to some form of interaction is being very much welcomed.
The new normal?
The reality is that some form or another, social distancing restrictions will be with us for a while, and in some cases, many habits or working practices introduced throughout the pandemic may well become what’s starting to be termed “the new normal”.
We have seen a huge increase in the use of tools to communicate online – with software applications such as Zoom and Microsoft teams becoming the “meeting room” of choice. Many companies will seize on this opportunity to harness the power of online meetings to reduce travel costs and increase remote working.
And on the subject of remote working – with so many businesses being forced to “make the switch” many are now considering increased home working for their staff thanks to the reduction in overheads that fewer employees in the office can mean.
But one factor that we hope will become the “new normal” is a renewed faith in “buying British”.
Backing British Business
Ours, and indeed the global economy has taken a hammering throughout the lockdown period. With businesses closed, staff furloughed and even for those who stayed open – disruption within supply chains, the likelihood is that our habits will change for some time to come.
However, we are starting to see a wonderful emerging picture – as a nation, we are starting to make plans that mean supporting our economy, and backing local and community businesses.
While the world has seen the devastating effects of the global pandemic and each country has dealt with it in its own way – the UK has proudly stood together throughout. The sense of pride in our NHS, the thrill of buying from our local butcher rather than the faceless supermarket (but a big shout out to the supermarket staff), the hyper-local volunteering – it’s given us back our faith in our ability and desire to buy British.
Since the very start of lockdown, we have come together as communities to back our local and UK based businesses. We saw calls on social media to purchase vouchers for our favourite local restaurants – to help keep them afloat while closed. We took part volunteer groups set up to help local bricks and mortar businesses move online. We watched with pride as our local businesses took part in efforts to help the NHS – offering food, scrubs, and PPE. From the mechanics and nail bars who supplied their masks to care home, the curry houses who helped to feed NHS workers – we have pulled together as a nation.
Staying in the UK
Overseas holidays are likely to be seriously curtailed in the immediate future as quarantine rules for those entering the UK come into force, so those wishing to enjoy a break this year are starting to look closer to home planning our vacations in the UK instead of long haul, helping to put cash back into the UK economy at a time when it needs it the most.
With the current easing of restrictions combined with good weather, we have already seen people flocking to UK beaches. While currently, this may have seemed inappropriate – it does signal good news for those coastal locations which rely on tourism to keep their local economy afloat.
With long queues for the supermarkets, online delivery slots impossible to secure and, let’s not forget a dearth of items such as our precious loo rolls, many of us started to look to our more local shops and restaurants to provide us with both the essentials – and in some cases, our treats.
Our local businesses stepped up to fill the gaps on the supermarket shelves. Our local restaurants offered not just home deliveries, but also access to their own suppliers, farms supplied food boxes for those shielding and many local shops and even petrol station owners supplied those everyday essentials such as toilet rolls and flour.
As lockdown eases, we are hopeful that we won’t forget those wonderful local shops that helped us through the tough times and will continue to support and frequent those businesses.
The rise of independence
An interesting outcome of the lockdown is how many of us have used this time to start DIY projects, often taking on tasks that we would have previously outsourced, or “left for later”. Sales of paint have sky-rocketed as more of us have chosen to undertake those jobs that need doing, but also serve the purpose of keeping us occupied.
Indeed, as a provider of replacement kitchen doors, we have seen a huge increase in the number of customers who are ordering kitchen units, and watching YouTube videos around replacing kitchens themselves. Thanks to the beautiful weather, DIY projects are starting to feel more of a treat than a chore.
Hope for the future of UK businesses after lockdown
Kitchen Warehouse is a family run business based in the UK. Like all UK company’s we have worried, we have taken every step to protect both our customers and our teams, and we have faced the uncertainties of lockdown.
We have also felt the pride in our nation as we have come together to support each other, and have maybe shed a tear or two. What we do really feel right now though, is hope.
Hope in our economy, and hope in our businesses.
As a business that sells kitchens online, we have thankfully seen a constant stream of orders throughout the crisis, and thank all of our customers for supporting us throughout the pandemic.
However, we look, not only at our own organisation but want to bring hope to other companies and individuals who perhaps don’t have the luxury of selling online or feel uncertain.
As the restrictions lifted last week, we chose to carefully open our Ripon based showroom, letting customers once again come and visit us.
The great news is that we have been busier than ever since opening again. We have seen a boom in sales and can truly feel the excitement of our customers who are enjoying being able to come and take some time to browse our fantastic kitchens.
We say this not to boast, or as a sales tactic, but to reassure and bring hope to others that – while times have been tough – the future is starting to look brighter.
While of course, no one knows exactly what lies ahead – we believe that that with a little pulling together, a touch of pride in the UK, and a positive outlook we can say that things are looking promising for UK businesses after lockdown.