One week after the opening of schools to students and already we are seeing the lockdown of year groups and classes in the face of renewed infections. In Stoke, an entire school had to close a few days after reopening. Schools are taking very different approaches, with some asking students to bring everything they need to school, while others insist on children coming in without anything, as pens, books and indeed facemasks will be provided for them.
The same inconsistencies are to be found elsewhere, with different rules on quarantine in operation across the British Isles. If you have been holidaying in Portugal or Greece, and live in Wales or Scotland, a quarantine period awaits you on your return. This is not true of those returning from the same countries to England.
As I have written previously, the pandemic has required all of us to be more agile and responsive to a fast-changing and unpredictable situation. And, while it may be difficult to navigate, it has forced individuals and businesses to look at challenges in new and different lights. The results have been remarkable.
During the pandemic, the food group Danone managed to retool and introduce a new bottle shape, brand image and environmentally friendlier production process for its mineral water, completing a hugely challenging task using remote teams on Zoom. An entire plant in Mexico was reprogrammed remotely from Italy to make the changes needed. The entire process “cost less than a hands-on switch would have done.”
At Reliance High-Tech, we too have found ways of working around the restrictions placed by COVID-19. My colleague David wrote earlier about how we managed to install a video system in Milan at the very height of lockdown, having pre-programmed the devices before dispatch to our partners on the ground, following which we commissioned the system remotely.
Today, we are working with a major international financial institution, providing updates and additions to the security system which will better protect its people, property and reputation. Again, a large proportion of the system specification, design and setup will be completed remotely, to minimise the impact of local lockdown and quarantine. We continue to challenge ourselves to support customers in challenging circumstances, and the results are truly remarkable.
This ability to respond to changes in situations is essential, because as I said at the start of this article, the long term picture is unclear; and agility is key. Crime is on the increase again, it seems, with the Metropolitan Police and South Yorkshire Police reporting a year-on-year increase in violent crime and Merseyside Police seeing public order offences up 14% over the same period, despite the fall in crimes during lockdown.
And, with working from home becoming more popular and organisations vacating city centres, could crime follow suit and migrate? Will we see more crime in the suburbs and countryside? Will the newly emptied city centres present tempting opportunities for criminals? As we continue to manage the repercussions of COVID-19, we need to keep an eye on the future and be prepared – more so than before – for a number of eventualities.
Speaking of which, the year that has thus far given us a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic is not yet finished, and promises more. The UK has left the European Union, and the probability of a deal before year-end is now ranked at only 30 to 40 percent, according to Government sources. Much has been written about the potential disruption that no deal could bring, with the UK’s transport and logistics providers the latest to express alarm at the possibility of no deal.
Furthermore, looking further down the line, the huge amounts of money spent during the pandemic will surely result in tax rises and, while there is dissent over the timing of the introduction of taxes to address additional Government borrowing, the impact on already stretched systems will be considerable.
It need not be all doom and gloom. Yes, the environment will be tough, but there are definitely opportunities too. The message is clear: be prepared, look ahead and plan now. Productivity, resilience and efficiency will be key. Harnessing the power of security systems and smart buildings can provide significant operational benefits as well as a welcome safety net in unsettled times. Now is the time to get fit and invest in the right technology and systems, ready for what lies ahead.
As always, stay safe.