Last week the government announced that the country would be retreating back into what we all dreaded – Plan B restrictions. As of the 13th December, people in England are once again being asked to work from home and masks will be compulsory in most public places. As we’ve all been advised, this has been rolled out in a bid to slow the spread of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron.
Large venues will also require COVID passes to confirm vaccination and negative testing. The Prime Minister has described these measures as “proportionate and responsible”, there is still much to learn about the new variant.
But what does this mean for the construction industry specifically? Could we be teetering on the edge of another supply chain crisis?
Two steps forward, one step back
The primary feature of the Plan B measures that could hint towards a slowdown is the work from home advice. However, this is something that affects office workers far more than hands-on professions, such as labourers, engineers or architects. During the first round of lockdowns, there were indispensable projects that carried on, so we’ll almost certainly see the same here.
However, the issue is likely to be upstream. When management or suppliers are uprooted and asked to work from home once more, the period of readjustment that we’ve all worked hard for is all but lost. This is undoubtedly going to lead to some kinks in workflows and supply chains, so we’ll probably see the ripples later down the line.
A possible upshot
There is, however, one piece of good news for site managers amongst the doom and gloom. One of the biggest issues for essential sectors during the lockdowns was self-isolation. If a member of a build team was in contact with a COVID case, they would have to self isolate for 10 days. This often precipitated a domino effect, where huge chunks of the team would be off for days at a time.
This, naturally, led to substantial delays in building projects. But, with Plan B restrictions come a silver lining; in place of self-isolation rules, we now have daily testing. So, if a member of the construction crew comes into contact with an Omicron case, instead of sending them home, we can test daily.
We’ll see what’s in store for COVID and construction
According to official figures, there are currently 568 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, although the Health Security Agency estimates that the true number of infections is probably closer to 10,000. It goes without saying it’s been a rocky two years for the construction industry and it doesn’t look set to improve any time soon. The introduction of Plan B restrictions was the last thing that we wanted to hear after a mammoth vaccination drive.
But, as we’re told cases continue to climb, it’s essential we take care of others and each other’s health – both mental and physical. Staying positive is key to maintaining productivity and seeing the best of the bad situation seems to be all we can do right now. It goes without saying we’re all waiting with bated breath to see how the situation develops.