Painful 2020 has U-turned into more painful 2021
Painful 2020 has U-turned into more painful 2021
11 JANUARY 2021 8:53 AM

The good news is that there are now three vaccines in use, but the first week of 2021 has poured more acid onto the dismal news of 2020 as businesses continue feeling pain amid a lack of clarity.

Happy New Year.

The first month of this new year has not shown a great deal of light, although three vaccines in active use globally provide a tinge of optimism.

The program to get the vaccine in people’s arms is a huge one, as is the restarting of the economy, but the spread and mutation of the virus is seemingly moving at a faster pace than that of politicians.

The BBC states that British vaccination efforts might be hampered by a global shortage of glass vials to store vaccines, lengthy safety checks and the training of sufficient numbers of trained vaccinators.

Hoteliers also need an injection.

More money is being pumped into hotel firms and other businesses in the form of grants (to be paid back of course), business-rate relief, reductions in value-added taxes (which may or may not be passed onto consumers) and moratoriums on winding-up and insolvency processes.

Will such heartfelt measures be sufficient to hold off disaster, or will they only prolong agonies?

In fewer than 10 days, many parts of the U.K. have gone from being in Tier 2 (translatable, I guess, as a serious situation, but manageable) to Tier 3, then Tier 4, then a complete lockdown, which mirrors initial efforts last March.

I see no real difference in what people can do, though. Exercise is allowed, as it always has been, although that initially was once a day, then changed to as much as one desired and now changed back again to once a day.

People are allowed to leave home for emergencies, which seems pretty vague. One could claim seeing snowy hillsides is vitally important for one’s mental health, and if those hillsides are 100 miles away, so be it, even if the request is that exercise should be done close to home.

In this vale of calamity, confusion and lack of clarity, it will become harder to run a business that is able to break even, even if it does so thanks to taxpayer aid.

Criticism of the U.K. government centers on the politicians’ inability to make decisions. The request that schools reopen might be indicative of the situation.

Government officials insisted that children return to school after the holidays. School unions, headteachers and school lobbying associations were divided between the need for continued education and safety fears for teachers and pupils.

Arguments raged for a couple of days, the medical boffins stepped in with their worries, official coronavirus numbers rocketed, and the government made a U-turn amid the latest countrywide restrictions.

Between the devil and a hard place, of course, but the same scenario has played out in many sectors and regions, and it always seems to be the same. The initial desire to get people back in offices, on public transport, in pubs and restaurants and hotels is followed by criticism that this might not be the right course, government delay and then a last-minute reversal.

Hotels have closed, opened, closed again, staggered on and are now closed almost entirely.

There also is the fear that the public has had enough, even as deaths continue, and that is a real worry.

As I write it is pouring with rain, and I have no desire to go out—apart from a run, of course, but that’s a given.

Business moves
As two recent, notable mergers and acquisitions and joint ventures illustrate that capital continues to look for opportunity, we edge toward going back to normal and complaining about Ryanair.

On the last day of 2020, Sonesta International Hotels Corporation agreed to buy RLH Corporation in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $90 million, while on the first day of 2021 Paris Inn Group and Maison Albar Hotels announced a new platform, Centaurus, to divide its portfolio into five distinct divisions that are being refinanced by Oaktree Capital Management.

These deals are signs—along with a good number of newly vaccinated every day—that things will get better.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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