New normal will involve personal risk assessment

Jo Francis
Friday, May 29, 2020

Jo Francis wonders about the future, while thinking about the crowded events that were part of a past life.

Four years ago, on the last Friday in May, I was in one of the posher parts of London enjoying a day out at the Chelsea Flower Show. This delightful floral jaunt was followed by some fairly frenzied packing activity ahead of flying to Dusseldorf two days later, ready to start work on the DrupaDaily 2016.

Sitting here today, both of those events seem like something from another life. Perhaps because they were from another life – our pre-Covid existence with all its freedoms.

The Chelsea Flower Show is always rammed. The experience involves no small amount of jostling elbow-to-elbow in order to get a glimpse of the various show gardens and the latest trendy iris colour.

The catering is rammed. The Great Pavilion marquee is rammed. The bandstand area is rammed. It’s ALL RAMMED.

Ditto Drupa. Last time around there were more than 260,000 people there from all over the world. Along with the best part of 2,000 exhibitors, also from all over the world.

Some of the booths can be as rammed as those show gardens at the Chelsea Flower Show. And then there’s the evening mingling in the narrow streets and packed bars of Dusseldorf’s Altstadt.

Seemed perfectly normal then, seems like the worst idea ever viewed from where we are at now.

As lockdown restrictions begin to be eased here in the UK – despite us having the second-highest number of Covid-19 deaths worldwide and a test and tracing system that’s not fully functional, go figure – one of the things about the ‘new normal’ for all of us is going to be our personal decisions on the level of risk we’re willing to take while this damned virus is still circulating and there’s no vaccine.

We’re all going to have to make some hard choices. And employers are going to be thinking deeply about risk assessments and their liability when employees are required to travel on business.

On the bright side, Drupa 2021 and RHS Chelsea 2021 are still a long way off.

And if there’s one thing we can surely be confident about, it’s that the Germans will find a ‘new normal’ way to make trade fairs function again. That country’s many Messes and the money they bring in are vital to the economy.

Maybe we’ll all have a pinprick antibody tests on the way in and out of the showground, be required to wear visors and gloves, and walk through temperature-testing archways. Who knows?

In fact, breaking news just in, Messe Dusseldorf has given us a peek at what a Covid-secure expo will look like this very morning, with more info to follow as the official guidance takes shape. 

I feel absolutely sure they will jump through every possible hoop to get that right.  

What I’m not so confident about is that our own government will be competent enough to follow best practice that’s being established elsewhere, over here.

Rant over. I’m off to smell some flowers.

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