Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making - overview of public engagement

This report outlines the themes emerging from a rapid analysis of the public engagement exercise on our approach to decision making with regard to changes to the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown arrangements.

Annex A: Business support: views on specific industries

Construction - There were calls to allow the construction industry return as soon as possible once clear guidance is in place. There were views that construction sector workers could return to work more easily than other customer-facing workplaces. Some suggested that, given the construction industry was used to complying with Health and Safety regulations and often had health and safety officers in place, they were well positioned to follow any Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines that may be required. It was noted that the construction of the NHS Louisa Jordan proved that construction sites can operate safely during the pandemic. Not all comments were in support of the construction industry returning to work quickly however. Some noted that it would be hard to ensure compliance on sites. Others felt that reopening the construction industry would increase movements in other areas of the economy through dependencies with the construction sites' activities.

Manufacturing - Manufacturing was often mentioned in tandem with construction as another industry that could be opened relatively easily given the non-public facing nature of the work and the fact that it is used to complying with strict Health and Safety regulations. Some suggested that Coronavirus (COVID-19) guidelines could be quickly implemented (i.e. ensuring a two-metre distance between workers is maintained, that face masks are worn, and that there are additional measures for cleaning and hygiene in workplaces). It was also noted that certain key manufacturing operations have stayed open during the pandemic and that wider industry could learn from these companies how to ensure safety. One respondent noted that "manufacturing businesses with a production line and a need to transfer a product from hand to hand or to a retail business is clearly higher risk" but "ultimately many risks can be mitigated and the onus should be on allowing directors to find solutions for their business within a framework."

Hospitality - The importance of hospitality was underlined by many in terms of its financial contribution and the amount of people employed within this industry. It was generally seen as one of the hardest hit industries in the current circumstances. The reopening of hospitality businesses was also linked to the idea of normal life resuming, especially as businesses such as cafes, pubs and restaurants are seen as important to social life. While some suggested that hospitality businesses are likely to be the last ones opening up, others argued that businesses such as pubs "will need to reopen in line with other retail establishments in order to protect businesses and jobs." Those opposing the opening of hospitality businesses suggested it will be difficult to observe social distancing measures in pubs, restaurants and other establishments. However, suggestions were made for various ways in which these businesses could be operated safely:

  • limiting how many customers are let into premises at any one time (most agreeing about 50-60%)
  • making use of their outside spaces as it will be easier to socially distance outdoors
  • pedestrianising certain streets so outdoor seating could be provided

Many commenters emphasised the importance of PPE and strict hygiene measures, for example:

"When we allow restaurants to open then we should position the tables at least 2 metres apart. Perhaps staff should all have masks and of course all tables should be cleaned with any bacterial sprays. Only disposable paper napkins should be used and of course only plates, cutlery and glasses cleaned in appropriate cleaning machines should be used. Perhaps only pre table bookings should be taken and of course payments by card only. It may well be that sittings of only up to 1.5 hours be allowed."

Those who are more sceptical suggested that social distancing and strict hygiene procedures would not work in hospitality as "food still needs to be served by staff to customer (close contact) who have touched plates cutlery etc. and social distancing between staff [is] impossible in some restaurant set ups."

There was also a suggestion that, while many in the hospitality industry would be eager to reopen as soon as possible, they should be given time to make in-premises preparations beforehand. It was suggested that owners and staff should be allowed in their premises early, so they were able to organise before they reopened to the public. It was felt that if each business had this time to prepare, they would find it easier to "adapt to new ways of working" and "implement COVID measures for the public."

Housing market - There were a number of overlapping ideas about unfreezing the housing market and allowing removal companies to operate which generated fairly universal positive support. Overall, it was argued that property sales could reopen safely with appropriate safety guidance (e.g. ensuring only one property viewer at any time; viewers and sellers wearing gloves and face coverings and keeping two metres apart; increasing the use of video tours to reduce the number of unnecessary physical viewings).

The importance of the housing market to the economy was emphasised together with the difficult situation which the housing market freeze is putting many people in. People shared their own personal experiences, and expressed feeling "stuck in limbo." Some compared Scotland's housing market with England's and felt that a more proactive approach in the South could result in companies in Scotland losing business.

"Removal companies still operate in England. My family plan to move from Southampton to Edinburgh (once builders are allowed to finish houses) We were thinking of using Scottish company but this restriction has made us have 2nd thoughts."

Transport - Many described how driver-based services, such as taxis or driving instructors, would struggle to restore customer confidence until they had additional health protection measures in place. Specific ideas to enable driver-based businesses to reopen safely included installing plastic screens in cars and providing guidance to companies of practices that could help mitigate transmission risks in a car.

Tourism - Many are supportive of the idea that tourism could be opened up gradually, starting with parts of tourism where social distancing is most likely to be adhered to, including self-contained, self-catering holiday homes or caravans. This was perceived as low risk and would allow same household or 'bubble' groups to take breaks from cities, as well as boost local economies. It would also help those who pay large fees to be able to use caravan sites but currently cannot use them despite feeling they posed little risk. Other suggestions included initial banning of wild camping and opening up hotels but with reduced capacity. The counterargument raised was that it was too early to lift/relax restrictions on tourism because there are too many "ifs and buts" around this and this could produce more harm than good. There is a risk of increased infection rates in rural communities, especially if they hosted popular touristic hotspots, where NHS capacity may be lower than in urban areas.

International tourism - Some felt that travellers to the UK should be asked to prove they have recently tested negative instead of quarantining them, arguing that this would help tourism in Scotland.

Beauty industry (Hairdressers, beauticians, make-up artists, tattoo parlours) - The idea of opening up of hairdressers, barber shops and beauty salons or services of freelance make-up artists generated quite a number of contributions. Overall, it was argued that opening will help hairdressers economically, who tend to be self-employed, and that it will also be beneficial in terms of wellbeing for many people. It was felt that it would be feasible to sustain the existing restrictions and manage the risk of infection with sensible rules, procedures or with technology (text for appointments in advance to avoid queues).

"Sensible rules and procedures from Germany, we should do the same. Appointments, wear masks, improve cleaning, no dry cuts etc."

However, there were also critical views, including from a person stating she owns several hair salons herself, doubting whether this could be done safely given that the nature of the industry requires close contact with clients:

"As a salon owner myself, I and many other friends and colleagues in the industry have massive fears about our return. The closeness of our job to other people is unavoidable, the virus living in hair, and transmitting in water vapour makes it completely impossible for us to wash, dry or even deal with hair in general, without feeling at risk. The price of PPE has rocketed for us, and knowing if it will continue to be available is a worry."

Some argued that if hairdressers and beauticians are allowed to open so should tattoo parlours.

Gyms, sports centres and leisure facilities - Gyms were a popular topic of discussion on the platform, with quite opposing views being expressed: while some see suggestions to open gyms as unrealistic or "madness", others argue it could be done safely. The mental health benefits of exercise are mentioned often. The ideas around measures to enable gyms to reopen included:

  • limiting numbers of people accessing the gym at the same time
  • rigorous hygiene practices
  • cancellation of classes (i.e. only using equipment) or limiting the number of class attendees
  • use of PPE
  • booking time slots
  • not opening showers/changing rooms
  • temperature checks on entry

Some people also suggested that personal trainers (PTs) could be allowed to work on a one-to-one basis as it would be easier to maintain social distancing, and this would also help those who were self-employed PTs. One idea was concerned specifically with swimming in sport centres and it was accompanied with a suggestion of limiting numbers and time limits for use of the pool, and rotating use of changing facilities to allow for cleaning between customers.

Garden centres - Many respondents supported the opening of garden centres on the basis of the positive mental health impact of gardening and the increased time people spending in gardens due to lockdown. There was an argument that if hardware stores were able to be open, so should garden centres (using a similar model). There was also some suggestion of priority access to garden centres for the elderly (like at supermarkets). Concerns existed about how specific demographics that were likely to use garden centres may be higher risk (i.e. more older people). There was also a worry that there would be a "rush" on them if reopened. Some identified potential issues with maintaining social distancing at queues or were concerned that families will use them for a "day out" if they have animals/play areas. There was also concern that there are lower staff numbers in garden centres than supermarkets so it may be difficult to manage queues. There was a suggestion of click and collect services/open by appointment.

Dental services - Contributors noted that dental practices are regarded as businesses rather than as providing healthcare - "If dentistry were treated like healthcare we would recognise that leaving people with infections and in pain isn't acceptable." It was widely suggested that because dentists and dental nurses are healthcare professionals they are fully aware of hygiene practices and able to minimise any risk of transmission. However, it was also suggested that practices need access to sufficient PPE and due to the issues in supply chains this could be hard to manage. Contributors also argued that dental services should be classified as an essential service, and that people should not be left to deal with pain and other issues without access to dental care. Owing to concerns about a growing backlog of patients, there was strong agreement that dental services should be made available as soon as possible.

Charity shops - There was an argument that charity shops are valuable for reducing waste and having a positive environmental impact (both in terms of reducing fly-tipping and in terms of people now being tempted to purchase online that they would otherwise buy second hand). It was also suggested that charity shops were important for people on lower incomes and provide important streams of revenue for charities. There was also an argument that charity shops could safely operate using the same protocols as food shops.



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