At the risk of tempting fate, it looks like the world might finally be emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic. Sort of. Across the UK and other nations, various pandemic restrictions are easing. Over the coming weeks and months, policies once enforceable by law are returning to the realms of what one might hope to call ‘common sense’.
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For example, from 24 February in England, testing positive for Covid will no longer come with a legal requirement to self-isolate. People will still be very much encouraged to take the same precautions, but just as with the flu (or any other contagious disease) there will no longer be any legal restriction against going out to a restaurant and inadvertently coughing over the food of your fellow diners. Bon appétit!
That’s not to downplay the presence of the virus – it didn’t just go away. Covid is still very much out there. However, after the Omicron variant saw new cases surging to a weekly global average of 3.4 million in late January, numbers are now dropping rapidly. At the time of writing, the weekly global average is still about 1 million cases higher than in November 2021, but at the current rate of decline, we’re likely to return to (and possibly go below) the ‘normal’ levels of last year in a matter of weeks.
Even more heart-warming to see is that deaths are now going down once again and vaccination uptake continues to rise. As of 22 February, more than 4.92 billion people (63.1% of the global population) had received at least one dose of a vaccine, with 4.34 billion of those having received two doses (55.8%), and 1.28 billion (16.4%) having also been given a ‘booster’ jab.
Obviously, the big hope of this opening up is that it will fuel an economic resurgence. The world certainly needs it. Pandemic restrictions, increased healthcare measures, subsidies, furlough payments, etc., have come with a huge price tag. Taking the UK as an example, pandemic expenses caused public sector debt to rise substantially; it now accounts for £2.3 trillion or 94.9% of GDP.
The challenge for the industry now is to take lessons learned from the pandemic, such as the importance of flexibility and agility, the role of digital technologies, and the effective use of data, and apply these to operations in (what will hopefully soon become) a post-pandemic world.
After all, there are other challenges on the horizon.
As Aniruddha Sharma of Carbon Clean points out on p. 57 of this issue, “The world is expected to build the equivalent of another New York City every month for the next 40 years” – the cement industry is going to be key to ensuring that this can be achieved sustainably.
To find out more about the solutions on offer, and hear from industry experts on how the cement industry can achieve net zero, be sure to join us on 16 March for EnviroTech 2022. For free registration, head over to: www.worldcement.com/envirotech2022 I look forward to seeing you there!