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Road to (nowhere) somewhere

Roads, Marty? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

Roadmap (noun) A plan or strategy intended to achieve a particular goal.

Those readers of a certain age will remember shopping trips as children to the local metropolis (in my case, London). There was always, always a man in a raincoat walking up and down shouting about the end of the world. “The end is nigh. Repent your sins” and all that.

I was reminded of that on Monday afternoon when I watched the Prime Minister announce what he hopes will be our road through the lockdown woods to the covid-free world beyond. Well, not covid-free, exactly. I’m pretty sure the science is telling us that we will be living with covid for many years to come, but to a world where we can move about and mix and shop and get a haircut and pint. Probably not at the same time though.

Suppliers will be able to get out and about and see their customers again.  Merchants and manufacturers will be able to do what they do best – build solid, long lasting business relationships and friendships via the many, many networking opportunities that are out there.

But not yet. Re-opening the economy is a series of baby steps.

The week after next I get my study back to myself, by the end of March I can take the children back to rugby training and have a cup of tea in my Mum’s garden. I can meet my friend and her family for a dog walk (you know who you are. Get your diary out). By the middle of April, I can get my haircut and sit in my local pub garden, having bought a blanket from a now-opened non-essential shop on the way there – this is still England, after all.

By the middle of May, I can be inside the pub instead of outside it and it looks like business lunches will be back on the cards. I’ve got my first one pencilled in already.

June 21– the Summer Solstice – is the magic date, when, it is hoped, we will be able to throw off most of the shackles we have been operating with for the past year. By then it will have been for the best part of 18 months.

One thing Boris was very clear about was that, while he wants this to be the last lockdown, we have to still abide by rules and regulations and that this is only a plan, a roadmap.  All those dates I mentioned are targets and whether we hit them will depend on the continuing success of the vaccine roll-out, our ability to keep to social distancing rules and the rate at which infections continue to fall. Or rise; there is every possibility that we will see some slight spikes as each sector of our lives opens up again. The challenge is keeping those spikes low and short and ensuring that the NHS can cope with them.

I don’t believe we will ever be back to what we knew as normal. Too much has happened, or, rather not happened, and we have somehow coped. The way we do business  and interact with each other has changed, probably for good. Do I miss getting out and about and seeing merchant branches and manufacturer premises and finding out what makes this industry tick? Hell, yes. Do I miss getting up at stupid o’clock and spending half the day on the motorway or on the train to visit those premises? Hell, no. There’s a lot to be said for the time-saving element of an interview via Zoom.

I think, post-pandemic, we will learn to be more selective about the face-to-face meetings we do attend. It will be those where we really do feel we need to have that personal touch. And boy, are we going to appreciate that when we get there.

Hang in there, mask-up and keep washing your hands, the end is nigh.

Who remembers this guy? An Oxford Street institution when I was growing up.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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