The road to the coronavirus vaccine has been long, dark and winding; littered with potholes, bumps and wrong turnings. But as the first people in the UK received the jab this week, the nation was injected with fresh hope that we’re finally on the right path.
800,000 doses are being administered across the country over the coming days – but protecting the physical health of citizens is only one stop on the road to recovery from COVID.
Once the jab is rolled out further and wider, more attention will turn to improving the country’s economic wellbeing.
Britain plunged into a recession in August, with many big-name brands going bust alongside small businesses.
Looking back over a period where ‘lockdown’ was voted as the ‘word of the year’, there have been few real ‘winners’ in 2020. But data compiled by the Office for National Statistics has revealed that some industries and businesses have fared far better than others since the pandemic took hold.
Which industries fared best in 2020?
Both the accommodation and travel industries have – unsurprisingly – struggled during a period in which people were actively discouraged from leaving their own homes.
However, turnover in the camping sector was actually up from the same period in 2019.
With isolation requirements intact for travel in and out of Britain, pitching up in nearby countryside was considered the safest and most viable type of getaway in 2020.
The ONS also suggested that the ability to socially distance on campsites may have played a role in the camping sector’s strong performance.
Furniture stores, too, have seen high numbers of customers return after lockdown.
ONS stats found that trade returned to pre-pandemic levels later following the first lockdown – ‘boosted by people still spending more time at home than they used to.’
Data also showed that dispensing chemists have seen higher sales since the pandemic began.
Which industries took the biggest hit in 2020?
The hospitality sector, of course, has been one of the biggest victims of the pandemic – forced to contend with revolving restrictions and intermittent closures, depending on the time of year or which part of the country they might reside.
Over a fifth of hospitality workers have lost their jobs in 2020 – some 660,000 and counting.
Indoor entertainment venues such as cinemas and theatres have also suffered heavily.
According to the ONS, September 2020 turnover for cinemas was down 58% for the same month last year, despite the venues being allowed to reopen.
Big screen theatres have since suffered another blow after being forced to close again in a second lockdown, with sites in England’s Tier 3 areas still shut today.
Music publishing, however, enjoyed an increase in turnover relative to February – perhaps due to the increased use of home entertainment.
Clothes stores have also suffered plummeting sales – with many social interactions banned outside households.
For the first portion of the pandemic, many of us had no reason to buy trendy new clothes – spending the majority of our time in our PJs, sweats, and exercise shorts.
ONS data did show an uptick in fashion purchases ahead of students returning to schools, however – with sales levelling off in September.
You can read the full report on the Office for National Statistics website here.
‘Significant risk’ of UK gas shortages this winter, regulator warns
Energy regulator Ofgem has warned that the UK faces a ‘significant risk’ of gas shortages this winter.
According to reports in The Times, the regulator has unveiled concerns that the country could face blackouts over the coming months thanks to an undersupply of gas to Europe caused by Russia’s war with Ukraine.
Warning that a “gas supply emergency” could be looming ahead, the energy regulator has said that some gas-fired power plants could see their supplies cut off, which in turn would stop generators from producing electricity.
The alert comes just days before an expected update from the National Grid on the likelihood of countrywide power cuts this winter.
Responsing to arequest from SSE, which owns several gas power stations, Ofgem outlined what is set to be a huge issue of concern given that the UK relies on large gas plants to produce the biggest share of its electricity supply.
The regulator also pointed to rules that could see power plants penalised as a result of shortages, warning of a worst-case scenario that would see the “potential insolvency of gas-fired generators” caused by rules that require plants to pay huge charges if they fail to deliver on promised quotas.
Adding that the issue must be addressed to prevent a “significant impact on the safety and security of the electricity and/or gas systems”, the regulator echoed concerns now widespread in Europe as its comments followed a similar statement made by the International Energy Agency (IEA) this morning.
Europeans are already being told they must lower their thermostats and boilers in preparation in case gas supplies are cut off, with Paris-based agency IEA warning today that the EU must focus on getting underground gas reserve levels to 90% of capacity in case of a complete Russian supply shut-off.
Preparation are already being made in Europe with the German government having approved a set of energy-saving measures for the winter to limit use in public buildings. In France, meanwhile, companies have already been warned they may face energy rationing this winter.
Whilst the UK government is yet to announce any energey saving measures, Ofgem has said that it expect s“this winter to be more challenging than last year” and that it is taking “reasonable regulatory steps to mitigate and reduce the risks”.