Talk about bad timing… Only last month in this column I was exhorting you all to escape the confines of your offices and get out to meet your customers and colleagues at the many spring conferences and exhibitions that were coming up. Barely was the ink dry on the March issue when the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak in China went global and, as I write this, we are getting daily reports of events being postponed or cancelled.
Event organisers are obviously not keen to take such a drastic step: there is a lot of money tied up in a big show. But at the same time companies are not keen to expose their staff to risks and we are hearing that many are already restricting business travel, reducing exhibitor and visitor numbers.
That is bad news financially for hotels, conference venues and event organisers, but also for airlines, airport operators and the staff who work for them. There has already been one airline go into administration in the UK and analysts predict that, if the epidemic persists, others could follow.
But, just as Covid-19 is a threat primarily to those with underlying medical conditions, then it also seems to be a threat primarily to those companies with underlying financial issues. And, as the situation is so fluid, by the time this issue of HCB reaches you, there may well have been more corporate casualties.
For those in the supply chain, events such as the Covid-19 outbreak bring immense stresses. There are some obvious issues in terms of the supply of medicines, personal protective equipment and testing equipment, as well as in the disposal of infectious waste. But this epidemic is bringing with it not just ill health but also public panic and fears about the supply of everyday necessities – food, water, toilet paper and all the other niceties of modern life. How will those goods get to the stores if delivery drivers are ill or self-isolating? How will those stores be staffed?
Furthermore, the global economy was already delicate – in this issue we report on the financial results of a number of the major chemical distributors, which all talk about a global macroeconomic slowdown in 2019, particularly in the mature markets in North America and Europe. It seems inevitable that a medical crisis on this scale – all around the world at the same time – will have a major adverse impact on demand for all manner of goods and services, and the logistics chains that supply them. Already the oil tanker markets are in turmoil as a result of a slump in demand for road fuels in China as people stay at home more, while empty containers (and tank containers) are stacking up at Chinese ports for lack of cargo.
Even now, talk is beginning to turn to what sort of long-term impact the Covid-19 epidemic will have on the world once it is all over. Will it signal an end to globalisation, as consumers and businesses switch to more local supplies? Or will it, conversely, make people more aware of the inescapable inter-connectedness of the world? And what will that mean for politics and global economics?
We shall see – or at least I hope we shall. We might have to avoid all that hand-shaking at conferences, though. Now wash your hands… Peter Mackay[post_title] => Editor's letter from self-isolation [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => editors-letter-from-self-isolation [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2020-03-10 08:01:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2020-03-10 08:01:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://hcblive.com/?p=17808 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )