Monday, November 29

United Kingdom, doomed to a winter with risk of covid and supply crisis


London Correspondent

Updated:

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The United Kingdom has been one of the countries most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, with a death toll that exceeds 136,000, and although at this time the restrictions to prevent infections that were in force for months are no longer mandatory, and the number of hospitalizations and deaths remains relatively low, the truth is that with the arrival of winter the scientists who advise the government they foresee a worrying increase in cases. A weeks ago, the own Boris Johnson acknowledged that although a new lockdown is the last option and that drastic measures would only be taken if the national health system is at risk of collapse,

The truth is that it is not completely ruled out and the restrictions could return, with the risk it poses to the economy.

And in the midst of this worrying panorama, there are other open fronts that could lead the British population to a harsh winter marked, in addition to the coronavirus, due to the shortage of products due to the shortage of heavy vehicle drivers and workers in various sectors, such as food and services. As if this were not enough, the increase in gas and electricity prices, which for wholesalers has tripled in 2021, has led to the bankruptcy of a dozen energy companies so far this year and an increase in the bill for consumers.

A sample of what may come in the coming months is what is happening right now with the so-called fuel crisis, which has left surprising images, especially in an economic power such as the United Kingdom, with very long queues of cars waiting for their turn. to refuel, gas stations across the country with the “no fuel” sign and even scenes of violence between desperate customers. The domino effect has been noticed in just a few days, with such dramatic examples as funeral homes postponing funerals, hospitals canceling appointments, essential workers unable to get to their jobs and some supermarkets with problems to replenish products. On Tuesday night the prime minister acknowledged that, although a plan is being worked on to save Christmas, the crisis in the supply chain, which also affects other productive sectors, could last for months.

Competition law

The government has tried to alleviate the situation, caused among other factors by the pandemic and Brexit, suspending competition law to allow oil companies to share fuel supply information; as well as offering thousands of temporary work visas to foreign drivers and speeding up the process for new drivers to be screened, a process that was halted during the worst months of the Covid outbreak. The Ministry of Transport has also written almost a million letters to existing heavy vehicle drivers to encourage them to get back on the roads and the Executive plans to launch intensive and free “training camps” to train between 3,000 and 4,000 people. . Johnson also took the opportunity to ask for an increase in the salaries of drivers, who currently earn an average of between thirty and forty thousand pounds per year, depending on the company they work for and the distances traveled, a salary that many consider insufficient for a profession that involves working long hours and spending weeks away from home.

The government, knowing that the situation could get worse at any moment despite the premier’s positive messages, mobilized its fleet of tanker trucks on Wednesday to take the product from the refineries to the service stations. This was confirmed in a post on his Twitter account by the Minister of Companies, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng, when he said that the fleet, which is made up of about 80 trucks, “will be on the road this afternoon to improve the distribution of fuel at petrol stations across the UK ”. The minister specified that for the moment the vehicles will be driven by civilians, but said that “in the coming days people will see the soldiers driving the fleet of tanker trucks,” after the executive approved on Tuesday to mobilize the military to help alleviate the crisis. Kwarteng assured that there are “signs” that the situation “has begun to improve” with “more stations” with available fuel, and urged the population to stop filling the tanks of their cars unnecessarily because “the sooner we return to our habits normal purchases, before the situation will return to normal “.

It should be remembered that just a month ago, it was the same minister who asked the transport companies to prioritize the hiring of British workers instead of relying on foreign labor to solve the shortage of truck drivers, after these asked the Boris Johnson Executive to relax the immigration rules that came into force after the consummation of Brexit on December 31 of last year and that have caused many community workers who left for their countries of origin during the Covid pandemic- 19, cannot – and do not want – to return.

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