• Andrew Busby

Testing Times

If you had to use one word to sum up Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement on Monday of the roadmap out of lockdown, what would it be? Relieved? Anxious? Disappointed? Frustrated? Elated?

Truth be told, it could so very easily be one or even perhaps all of those emotions. Because, let's face it, having had our liberty taken away from us for the best part of a year has been a strange and uncomfortable experience for most of us and we're left with a whole range of emotions.

But now we have some indication of when we will be able to return to something approaching normality, I wanted to take a moment to consider what this might mean for us as individuals and for society as a whole.

Because whilst it is of course great news that the vaccine is paying off and more sophisticated testing regimes appear to be just around the corner, the truth of the matter is that we may never return to anything approaching what our pre-pandemic lives were like.

And that's not necessarily a bad thing either.

After all, would you really want to cram like sardines onto the underground ever again? I certainly wouldn't wish to do so. I mean, I like my fellow man but not that much. And speaking of which, Public Health England declared today that this winter there have been, wait for recorded cases of flu.

I'll just repeat that; there have been no recorded cases of flu this winter. Zero. Zip. Nothing. Now that's quite incredible and that's not down to the Covid vaccine (obviously) or testing. That's down to us not breathing in each others aerosol every day and taking the trouble to wash our hands far more often. And although data for the incidence of the common cold is less clear, it's most likely that something we all thought was a normal part of life, we now realise is optional.

However, what does seem clear, is that whilst we will soon to be able to go out and enjoy ourselves once more, it won't be the same experience as before. Because such as social distancing, hand sanitiser and face coverings are going to be with us long after we've been allowed to go to the pub again.

And just like many other diseases and viruses, it increasingly looks like we're going to have to learn to live with this one for many, many years to come. And this is something which will affect all of us but in different ways. Because we all have our own personal attitude to risk; both managing it and mitigating it.

For example, someone who enjoys base jumping or other dangerous sports, is likely to have a different attitude to risk than someone who prefers to wear a face covering when they're driving alone in their car. What precisely they are protecting, or themselves from, is a little less clear.

And what this means is that we're all going to experience the new world, once it is reopened up to us, in differing ways. Months and months of being denied any form of entertainment or travel or socialising has created a huge pent up demand. An insight into this came from Easyjet who reported that ticket sales more than quadrupled in the hours after Boris Johnson's announcement on Monday that international travel may resume from 17 May.

Expect similar when so called non-essential retail reopens on 12 April and when pubs and restaurants also reopen. But for many the experience will a) likely be a disappointment and b) laden with an unacceptable level of risk.

Because, when it comes to shopping and eating or drinking out, some hand sanitiser and a few perspex screens is unlikely to satisfy the majority that the environment is safe. And the fear is unlikely to be of dying from Covid no more than it is from the flu. But as we learn more about the virus, the affects of so called long Covid are becoming clearer. And that, most likely, will be the cause of any residual anxiety.

And that's something both the retail and hospitality sectors have yet to come to terms with. But

whether the weight of public opinion or government legislation bring about a change remains to be seen.

Andrew Busby is co-founder of SafePrem Solutions.

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