Coronavirus & Tradesman/Small business owners
As cases of coronavirus continue to grow in the UK, significant effects are being felt across a wide spectrum of industries. With stock markets tumbling, and panic buying setting among many, it can be difficult to get a clear picture of how small businesses are likely to cope.
The year had started with a great deal of promise, with activity in the construction sector rising by its biggest margin since December 2018 in the month of February, but that early promise has understandably been tempered by the spread of the Coronavirus. It is worth stating from the outset that numbers in the UK are still relatively low especially in comparison to other parts of the world, but cases are increasing. With that in mind, here are a few questions that those working in the trades might be considering.
Should I be worried?
It’s understandable that many are considerably worried about the coronavirus, but at the same time, we need to approach it with a degree of sensibility. The common flu kills roughly 17,000 people in England each year alone, now this certainly doesn’t mean we should simply dismiss the coronavirus, but it does add a sense of perspective. The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, currently has a mortality rate of between 2 and 4 %. Considerably lower than the SARS outbreak in 2000 which had a mortality rate of around 10%. The vast majority of those dying from the illness are those with underlying health conditions and the elderly. Most who catch it feel flu-like symptoms but recover relatively quickly.
What can I do?
First things first, don’t panic. Recent footage of people fighting over toilet paper in Australia has highlighted the need for us to remain calm and not to lose our humanity. Fear-mongering that the apocalypse is upon us will only exasperate the situation. The most important thing we can all do right now is to make sure we are regularly washing our hands, disposing of dirty tissues properly and if you begin to feel sick you should seek medical advice immediately, while also avoiding contact with others.
We should also be aware of the spread of disinformation about the virus. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are already redirecting all queries about the virus to the NHS in response to an increase in misleading information. Stories stating that anti-bacterial gel doesn’t work against it are completely false. As long as there is an alcohol content of at least 60% it does kill the virus. While fantastical conspiracy theories of chemical weapons isn’t helping anybody right now. If you wish to share some news, by all means, but all have the responsibility to try and make sure what we are sharing is not only factual but doesn’t aide the spread of panic.
Is my business going to be affected?
Potentially yes. It’s likely that we won’t see the full effects for several months. But as with any situation that has the potential to cause mass panic, it’s perfectly likely that customers may begin cancelling jobs. The government has already suggested that those facing financial hardships, including short term cash-flow issues, can apply to use the HMRC’s time to pay system, which is used to help struggling businesses from falling into tax arrears.
If you receive panicky calls from customers, it’s best to simply refer them to the current governmental guidelines, which are exactly the same as what is included in this article. Trying to persuade a customer that they needn’t worry about Coronavirus could well come across as pushy and insensitive. Instead, simply state that you are following current recommended guidelines and are happy to continue as planned.
If the virus becomes more embedded in the population, there have been estimates that 20% of the UK population may require time off work. Now, this is by no means a small number, but bearing in mind that it won’t all happen at once, and the amount of time taken off work will vary from case to case.
I don’t feel comfortable in an environment, what should I do?
If you arrive at a job and, for whatever reason you don’t feel comfortable, it’s perfectly plausible to express those doubts, and if those concerns are not addressed, by all means, leave. In this way, it’s no different than a dangerous site that you are asked to work on. If it doesn’t feel right, and that your own safety might be in question, you shouldn’t be there. Working with this kind of environment hanging over you will only lead to problems.
We all have the moral responsibility to help prevent the spread. A sick individual should not be calling out a tradesperson for a non-essential project right now. Should you arrive somewhere that you do not feel comfortable then we suggest taking some action.
Should I be using special equipment?
While there has been a noticeable increase in those wearing masks, their effectiveness is highly debatable. The regular surgical masks that seem common offer little to no protection, however more advanced models such as the N95 respirator can protect you from the virus. That being said their use is still not being advised by the relevant authorities - at least for the time being.
What should I do if I don’t feel well?
Do not go to your local GP or the hospital. Use the online tool below and follow instructions from there
What is a lockdown and how might it affect me and my business?
A lockdown is in effect a way of stopping non-essential public interactions. Itlay has just implemented the largest lockdown so far, affecting over 60 million people. Schools will be closed for the next month, while all sports events have also been suspended. No other country has taken steps of this magnitude, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility. If the same were to happen in the UK it’s highly likely that the trades will be severely affected in all but essential cases. Despite what many seem to be believing a lockdown does not signal the end of public services and supermarkets will remain open.
Is this going to increase the rates of thefts?
Over the last month or so there has been much said about the effects coronavirus could have on other services outside of the health sector. While many of these predictions were based on a ‘worst-case scenario’ it pays to be aware of them. Should the virus become widespread in the UK, it’s likely that the police and other services will be stretched to the limit. If this happens, theoretically it could mean less time is dedicated to non-essential calls, such as van theft. As of right now, there has been no noticeable rise in thefts, but as we’ve mentioned in previous posts, van theft is at an all-time high and you should remain vigilant and sensible with how you store your tools.
We are still at the early stages so it’s hard to make any concrete conclusions at this point. Until recommended guidelines from the government change we suggest continuing on as normal, but with significantly more hand-washing. Unfortunately, we live in a time of exaggerated panic and mass hysteria. We need to acknowledge coronavirus for what it is, a particularly nasty strain of the flu, that has the potential to kill those with weak immune systems and the elderly. For the majority of the population the mortality rate, even if infected, would be well below 1%. We certainly shouldn’t underestimate this virus, but we also mustn’t implode.
This is a fluid situation so we recommend checking official updates on a regular basis.