When you wake to discover that Rory Burns was bowled first ball and Stuart Broad has been benched with his replacement the spinner Jack Leach unlikely to bowl a ball according to Jonathan Agnew, you do tend to ask the question “who makes these decisions?“ But as the day goes on it gets worse with news appearing that a meeting was to be held relating to “Plan B” and Boris Johnson taking the daily COVID news conference.

We therefore tuned in at 18:00 hours to learn what the outcome would be for our business and those of our clients to discover that;

  • From Friday face masks will be required in more public settings which includes Theatres and Cinemas,
  • From Monday people will be asked to work from home (WFH) where possible, and
  • From Wednesday the NHS Covid Pass will be required for visitors to nightclubs, indoor unseated venues with more than 500 people, unseated outdoor venues with more than 4,000 people and any event with more than 10,000 people.

However, Mr Johnson during his Q&A session said that we should continue with Christmas Parties and Nativity plays as long as we follow the guidance. Granted he may have got this wrong as detail isn’t his strong point, but if not “who makes these decisions?” Most of the Q&A was spent talking about last years alleged inappropriate festivities rather than looking into the detail of the new announcements. And isn’t that part of the problem in that we focus on earlier issues rather than examining the road ahead?

Let me provide you with some anecdotal evidence that I have garnered in recent weeks and months;

  • As a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur I am only aware of 1 person being asked to show their COVID passes to the point where we haven’t bothered to screen shoot the information before leaving for the Stadium as we don’t expect it to be needed.
  • On early games there were signs saying have your COVID pass ready for inspection so we all did – only to be told we don’t want to see that just your ticket to show you can get in.
  • Travelling on the train to last Sunday’s game against Norwich, I fancy 25% of travellers weren’t wearing face coverings so we already have non compliance with the rules.
  • We are all back at the office and in the main our positive cases are coming via parents of primary school children which suggests that so far, whilst we might well have been lucky by being careful, we haven’t run aground.

At a time when we are trying to regain our previous performance, this comes at a bad time for us and on a day when we are trying to make a decision on our own Christmas event. It seems ludicrous to me that we keep people parted all week to save the spread of Omicron, but then put people into harmful and close proximity from Thursday/Friday evening and over the weekend. At this time those WFH will be mixing with those that cannot which suggests increased and unnecessary danger for the WFH group so is there any point in this? Who makes these decisions?

When we look at things like going to football, I just cannot see how this can allowed to continue with full grounds. Firstly, no club is set up to get into the ground a capacity crowd if everybody is required to have a certificate checked. And let’s be honest – I fancy it will be straightforward to get around this requirement if that is your aim as Spurs fans bringing alcohol to their seats walking right past Stewards demonstrated on a reasonably regular basis.

It is suggested to me that nightclubs and other venues needing to check COVID passes might also not be checking them. But having said this, we aren’t seeing huge outbreaks of infection following games or from these venues – or they haven’t been publicised – and so my thoughts are, are the Government statistics correct? Its clear people are still contracting the virus so is the Government thought process – it must be from travelling to work?

If we therefore assume that travelling to work is the major problem we have to consider individual travel plans and patterns for office workers. If I used public transport this might be an issue for me but in North Essex – most of us leave the house, get into the car and travel alone to our place of work. We then get out of the car, enter the building and sit at our work station. We might not go out at lunchtime and then return home by getting into the car and driving home. Excluding social distancing, I don’t see that as having any risk and even if I do go out at lunchtime for some air, its outside and I have my mask with me in case I enter a shop or other premises so I might be supporting the local economy in some way.

Yet the Government want working from home once more whilst at the same time want us to hold a Christmas party to bring the staff together. I find it incomprehensible to understand why I should be bringing staff together if the Government think it dangerous to come out of the home on a workday. I ask again, “Who makes these decisions?

Once again, we decision makers find ourselves in a situation where we are stuck in the middle, satisfying nobody and finding the guidance a complete nonsense to make sense of. There must be many owners and managers with years of valuable experience considering whether they wish to remain in this situation or join the ever growing group of early retirees which puts our economy under evermore pressure.  Yet today, tomorrow or in the coming days they will be called to make decisions based on this guidance that will likely be criticised by some, undermined by others and welcomed or accepted by the remainder.

And if someone working from home contracts COVID either at the football, in a nightclub, at the Christmas party or is just unlucky – will they be trying to keep it under the radar and continue working at a lower rate without their employer finding out. After the example set by the Government officials and maybe Mr Johnson himself, perhaps you couldn’t blame them for doing so. We hear that the new variant is closer to a cold and bad headache than the more serious illness of the previous COVID variants so this is more what we were used to in pre COVID days with people struggling on in the Office. Of course, this could change as we learn more about this variant but all the signs suggest it can be dealt with by vaccine.

Unfortunately it seems that COVID is here to stay and we have to work out a way to live with it rather than running away every time a new variant appears, but that’s a big decision that nobody will want to make.

Let’s hope for a Merry Christmas.

Nick Forsyth - Lambert Chapman Managing Partner

Posted by Nick Forsyth

The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the Author and other professionals may express different views. They may not be the views of Lambert Chapman LLP. The material in the article cannot and should not be considered as exhaustive. Professional advice should be sought in connection with any of the issues contained in the article and the implementation of any actions.

Lambert Chapman Chartered Accountants

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