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Tech plays its part as govt pledges £330bn to save economy in wake of virus spread

17 March 2020

Industry bodies led by the Construction Leadership Council have written to the prime minister urging him to allow sites to remain open. In the letter the CLC is urging government to:

  • ensure all construction sites across the UK are able to remain open, as long as they are able to do so responsibly;
  • instruct all public sector construction clients to continue to pay their contractors and supply chain;
  • consider implementing financial measures, such as the deferral of VAT & PAYE payments, that will reduce the burden on business and keep cash moving as long as possible.   

It says: “Should the coronavirus cause a ‘shut down’ of the construction sector, we will face unprecedented challenges that we know from previous downturns will cause many companies and individuals to face significant financial repercussions.”

The response comes as prime minister Boris Johnson advised those who can work from home to do so, and chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled a £330bn package of measures.

Sunak said coronavirus is “a public health emergency but also an economic emergency” and promised government intervention “on a scale unimaginable only a few weeks ago”. “The government will stand behind business small and large,” he said and announced government-backed loans and guarantees “to get businesses through this”.

This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold, a time for courage. I want to reassure every British citizen this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this.– Rishi Sunak

The government’s chief scientific adviser said about 55,000 people in the UK now have Covid-19 and 71 people are known to have died, as the NHS moved to cancel all non-emergency surgery.

Sunak said: “This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold, a time for courage. I want to reassure every British citizen this government will give you all the tools you need to get through this.” The £330bn package was, he said, equivalent to 15% of UK GDP.

In the US Boston mayor Martin Walsh has ordered construction projects in the city to be shut down for at least the next two weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak, which had hit 33 of the city’s residents as of Tuesday morning.

All projects must be stopped and the work zones secured, the mayor said during a press conference, with the exception of emergency projects such as roadwork and gas hookups.

In the UK, Build UK and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) issued a joint statement, in which they said that the “impact on the industry’s supply chain, consisting of multiple layers of businesses, many of them of SMEs with a significant amount of self-employed workers, will be catastrophic and unavoidable”.

Meanwhile technology firms were among those issuing pledges to help those in the built environment work remotely.

IrisVR said it was is now offering extended trials for its immersive collaboration software, Prospect, to facilitate remote VR meetings. This enables distributed teams to safely collaborate while reducing travel and exposure to any potential harm. 

“Today, we believe we can help people going through that transition by significantly extending trials and giving out additional licenses to our partners affected by Covid-19,” said Shane Scranton, CEO and co-founder of IrisVR. “We’ve built our business on the importance of the user’s experience. As more teams are encouraged to stay home and work remotely, AEC workers will feel increasing pressure to run design reviews, coordination meetings, and client presentations from their homes or remote offices.

“Transitioning to remote work is a big change for project teams that are used to being on the ground visiting job sites, and to that end, we want to be a strategic partner to make sure project teams are able to stay collaborative.”

And VR/AR software company The Wild pointed out: “Video chat, messaging, and VR/AR tools will be relied on heavily during the coronavirus pandemic as staff and clients alike will need to forego travel and in-person meetings, and begin working remotely for the foreseeable future.” 

Clay Walsh, marketing and communications director of The Wild, said: “The Wild provides our customers with remote access to an immersive virtual workspace where they can easily connect and collaborate with each other, as though they were in the same space.” 

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