Editor’s comment: Back to the future – lockdown lifts again…

Author : Mark Gradwell | Editor | EPDT

02 June 2021

MG lockdown headshot
MG lockdown headshot

Writing this column in early May, the country is tentatively braced for further relaxations of coronavirus restrictions, as we ease our way out of lockdown 3.0. The UK’s comparatively strong progress in terms of vaccine rollout has helped dramatically drive down COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations & deaths, all of which peaked horrifically over Christmas & into the new year.

A version of this editorial leader was originally featured in the June 2021 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. And sign up to receive your own copy each month.

Children were able to return to face-to-face education at the beginning of March, and from the end of that month, friends and families could meet outdoors in small groups. From mid-April, more businesses, including non-essential retail, were able to re-open, and hospitality venues (including pubs and restaurants) could serve people outdoors – as many of us braved weather that was far less agreeable than that enjoyed a year earlier during lockdown 1.0 for a pint or bite to eat.

More than a year since the pandemic began to seriously impact our way of life, most of us have had to adjust very different ways of interacting with the world. Working or studying from home, losing the option to eat or drink out, not being able to visit cinemas, theatres, clubs, sports stadiums or other venues – and worst of all, not being able to freely see family and friends. For work, face-to-face meetings became Zoom or Teams calls, restricting opportunities to network over a coffee or lunch, and exhibitions, seminars and conferences all had to move online too.

For those reasons and more, I’m excited for the imminent next phase in the roadmap out of lockdown. I’m fortunate (and old!) enough to have received my first jab (as have, thankfully, most of my immediate family, bar the kids), so I’m very much looking forward to being able to see (and hug) family and friends more freely, enjoy a pint or coffee with mates or colleagues, go to a gig, match or show – and yes, even attend a press conference, meeting or exhibition.

Of course, understandably (especially as talk of new variants ramps up and the vaccine rollout is not yet anywhere close to complete), many will feel much more cautious or nervous – and we must remain careful, sensible and vigilant. But, at the same time, I do hope life can soon start to return to something approaching (at least a new) normal.

Businesses, livelihoods and whole industries have been hurt and will need our support to recover. For me personally, I particularly hope hospitality, live music, sport, theatre and the arts can survive and are able to recover and thrive again. And while I recognise things will almost certainly not go back to exactly the way they were pre-pandemic, I also hope that live business events and meetings will recover. The necessity of the growth in adoption (and quality) of digital channels during lockdown will have a lasting impact, I’m sure – making businesses question the need for the previous depth of investments in travel and live events. But there is a place for both – and a value in face-to-face meetings and events that cannot be entirely replicated by digital channels.

On that note, I’m excited to hear about a substantial new UK show dedicated to our perhaps under-served sector. Launching next year, in June 2022, at the NEC, Birmingham, Manufacturing & Engineering Week will include three focused propositions for visitors: Design Engineering Expo, Manufacturing Expo and Engineering Expo. Supported by an impressive range of industry partners, including the Institute of Engineering Designers (IED), Make UK (the manufacturers’ organisation), the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy(BEIS), the show will focus on the UK’s leadership in design, engineering and manufacturing in a post-COVID, post-Brexit world, showcasing innovation, success and insight. Read more on the show in our sponsored cover story – and I’ll see you there next year…

EPDT June 2021's issue also contains features on RF & Wireless technologies and Industrial applications, plus the latest edition of EPDT's twice-yearly IoT & Industry 4.0 supplement. Read more on what's inside EPDT this month...

Mark Gradwell

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