Monday 14th September 2020

We are beginning to see the first indications of the ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections arriving in the UK. A steep rise in confirmed cases has raised the alarm with both health officials and government, and tighter restrictions are expected to follow.

Businesses have been warned about the possibility of a second wave ever since the virus first arrived in the UK. However, recent developments suggest that a mini-lockdown could be coming earlier than expected. After what has already been a testing year for UK business, can lessons be learned ahead of this winter?

What Could Winter 2020 Look Like for UK Businesses?

In July, a report by the Academy of Medical Sciences was published, at the request of the UK’s Chief Scientific Adviser. While they were assured of the need for swift action to curb what was at the time a slow rise in cases, they also modelled what a reasonable worst-case scenario could look like.

The report showed a considerable discrepancy between the potential number of winter cases depending on how the virus behaves. The broad scope of possible outcomes highlights the biggest problem for UK businesses – unpredictability.

The worst worst-case scenario highlighted by the report indicates a severity similar to that seen during the coronavirus peak across March and April. Under that scenario, businesses could experience another lockdown.

At the other end of the spectrum could be a higher level of enforcement that is already seen in some UK cities, such as Bolton and the Greater Manchester area. In these locations, there are significant restrictions on socialising, hospitality and nightlife.

The Autumn Flu?

Government officials were already keenly aware of the risk of coronavirus spreading during the winter months and are adamant that adequate preparation has been made. However, what has perhaps surprised many is how early a potential second wave has emerged.

When the Academy of Medical Sciences report was published, cases were beginning to rise again, albeit very slowly. For some, this may have been seen as a necessary trade-off for normality, a vital step for the UK economy.

However, the report at the time recommended immediate action to help prevent the worst-case scenario, and there were a few voices raising concern about the growing number of young people becoming infected.

Two months later, and many scientist’s concerns are beginning to be realised. Now, there are as many confirmed cases daily as there were in mid-May. As a result, the government is set to tighten restriction on social gatherings in England, with no more than groups of six allowed.

The UK government is attempting to get in front of the latest increase. However, there are concerns that this could develop into a second wave scenario. If so, we are looking at a rise much earlier in the year than many businesses would have planned.

What Can Businesses Do?

Many businesses would have been hoping for a promising autumn and potentially winter season to build their recovery after a tumultuous 2020. However, recent events indicate that this might be hopeful thinking.

Christmas is often a bumper time for retail. However, a mini-lockdown with significantly reduced government support – furlough is still unexpected to return – could cause a massive dent in consumer confidence, even when shopping online.

For other industries, there are growing concerns about the current state of Brexit talks. The threat of a no-deal Brexit still lies on the horizon, which could present more challenges.

Ultimately, the message right now has to be for businesses to prepare for the worst. Companies must ensure that they have fail-safes and reserves in place for any eventuality, such as the uncertainty surrounding the coming months.

Expense Reduction Analysts are cost reduction specialists, supporting businesses across various industries during this turbulent time. Our industry experts have been working in a range of cost areas to streamline supply chains, unlocking reserve capital and establishing strong foundations for major businesses.

If you are interested in strengthening your business foundations ahead of this winter, why not speak to our team and see what savings we could make for you?