As shown in TSJ’s report on Page 4, UK construction activity in March declined at the fastest pace since the 2008 financial crisis as many builders halted work and cut jobs as Coronavirus hit the economy.
The IHS Markit purchasing managers’ index for UK construction dropped to 39.3 last month from 52.6 the previous month, marking the lowest reading in more than 10 years.
“As measures to contain the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic were put in place across the UK, construction sites closed and builders lost their jobs on a frightening scale as overall activity fell to an extent not seen since April 2009,” said Duncan Brock from the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply.
The UK construction sector, employs 2.4 million workers and produces about 6% of the country’s total economic output. The Government allowed construction work to continue during the Coronavirus crisis, but in March the head-count in the sector still fell at the fastest pace since September 2010.
“The closure of construction sites and lockdown measures will clearly have an even more severe impact on business activity in the coming months,” said Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit. “Survey respondents widely commented on doubts about the feasibility of continuing with existing projects as well as starting new work.”
UK construction activity dropped less than in Italy, the first western country to introduce a national Coronavirus lockdown, where the corresponding index crashed to 15.9 in March.
“The PMI is pretty much guaranteed to deteriorate further in April as the full effect of the lockdown is captured,” said Andrew Wishart of Capital Economics, who have forecast at least a 15% contraction in gross domestic product in the second quarter.
Richard Beresford, Chief Executive of The National Federation of Builders has called for further government action to help the “industry survive and recover from the coronavirus”.
The organisation wants the Government to include construction companies in the business rates relief exemption and to automatically extend all planning permissions by a year.
Italian tile factories reopen
Following the issue of The Memoranda of 10th and 24th April that set out the safety measures for production, logistics, and transportation, Italian ceramic companies are set to return to production.
After resuming the shipment of finished products on 3rd April, Italian ceramic companies are now restarting production activities. This is an important step on the road towards a return to full-scale operation and the recall of all employees, and logistics operators while complying with applicable Government regulations.
Stringent precautionary measures are set out in the Memorandum of Understanding of 24th April, signed by the Government, Confindustria Ceramica, and the trade unions, and that of 10th April, signed by Confindustria Ceramica and the trade unions. They cover information dissemination, personal protective equipment; sanitisation of workspaces; safe distancing in offices, workstations, and eating areas; and making it easier for office staff to work from home.
To protect drivers and shipping personnel, ceramic companies have adopted containment measures such as new entry, transit and exit procedures and the use of dedicated routes and pre-established timescales to ensure that people maintain a safe distance at all times.
This review of all internal company procedures aims to guarantee the safety of employees while continuing to deliver the high-quality products and services expected from the Italian ceramic industry.
Verona offer free hand sanitisers
UK tile distributor, Verona, has pledged to provide all staff with free portable hand sanitisers when the business reopens and has extended this offer to customers who place an order.
The business, which was quick to react to the current national crisis safeguarding its staff and customers by closing its doors before full lockdown was introduced, will be giving these handy sanitisers out to customers free of charge with their order on a first come, first served basis while stocks last.
On Wednesday 29th April 2020, Verona reopened its warehouse for online orders, processing and dispatching a limited number of orders on a trial basis. Social distancing measures will be in place to ensure the safety of all staff with a skeleton team operating within the warehouse to fulfill orders placed through Verona’s trade portal.
All customers will receive a free sanitiser with their order to help provide those who return to work with an extra safety measure that they can simply clip to their belts or pockets, keeping hand sanitiser gel in easy reach. For further details visit: www.veronagroup.co.uk
Construction CEOs offer Covid-19 support
Leading engineering, construction, and development CEOs have published an open letter offering their support to local governments to help with their Covid-19 responses.
The CEOs are offering support in two main ways; by assisting with the expansion of hospital facilities by repurposing existing buildings and constructing new medical facilities; and by supporting in the construction and deployment of mobile Intensive Care Units housed in shipping containers.
“As leaders of preeminent engineering, construction, and development companies in the infrastructure and real estate sectors, we are well placed to lend our expertise and resources, in a coordinated manner, to assist in the immediate expansion of hospital capacity and post-crisis recovery to enhance the health and wellness of our built environment. Throughout history, advances in urban planning and infrastructure have had a profound effect on public health. The true value of our work is not limited to the built environment but is instead rooted in the health and resilience of the people and communities that inhabit our cities. This is our call to action.”
“Our businesses have already begun mobilizing in selected countries, states and cities, and we are ready to combine our resources with your political leadership to ensure that all communities are prepared to provide an adequate response to this rapidly changing crisis. By working together, we can embark on a coordinated effort to best utilize public and private sector resources in order to contain COVID-19.”
The letter was signed by Steve Demetriou of Jacobs Estate; Coen van Oostrom of Edge Technologies / OVG Real Estate; John Beck of Aecon Group; Frank Roseen of Aroundtown SA; Alan Belfield of Arup Group; Mads Nipper of Grundfos Holding; George Oliver of Johnson Controls; Christian Ulbrich, of Jones Lang LaSalle; Philippe Delorme of Schneider Electric; Eric Rondolat of Signify; and Ian L. Edwards of SNC-Lavalin.
For the latest news on Coronavirus, and its impact on the global tile sector, visit TSJ Live: http://www.tileandstonejournal.com/