One of Liverpool city region’s leading business voices says the UK could be just two to three months away from a return to normality.
Chris Shirling-Rooke, chief executive of Mersey Maritime which is the voice of the city region’s £4bn maritime sector, said the new COVID-19 lockdown was another huge challenge for businesses, but added: “It is always darkest just before the dawn.”
He was addressing Mersey Maritime members at the organisation’s first online Face-2-Face monthly event of 2021. Mr Shirling-Rooke, who was last week awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List, said his aim was to hold the normal physical Mersey Maritime Industry Awards at a venue in Liverpool in June.
“Last year was a really tough year for businesses across the board,” he said. “But what we still have here in the Liverpool city region is a really powerful maritime eco-system. I really think we could be just two to three months away from some kind of return to normality.”
In December, Mersey Maritime started to hold events for small numbers of people. It partnered with one of its members, Kays Medical, to offer rapid 15-minute COVID-19 tests for guests arriving at its Birkenhead HQ. This has given Mr Shirling-Rooke confidence that an awards ceremony will be possible.
“Our aim is to have a physical awards ceremony organised for June this year,” he added. “We showed in December that there are ways of getting safe physical environments up and running.”
It was also revealed that on January 20, Mersey Maritime members will get the opportunity to hear from the Dutch Ambassador to the UK, Karel van Oosterom. The Netherlands is one of the UK’s biggest trading partners and Merseyside firms will have the opportunity to hear a view on how Brexit is playing in Europe.
Mr Shirling-Rooke said: “This will be our first Global Trade event of 2021 and it will be invaluable for our members to find out about the challenges and opportunities that exist in other countries.”
The Face-2-Face event also heard an update from Ben Ludzker, chief executive of Kays Medical. He told Mersey Maritime members that the latest lockdown was necessary to protect the NHS as the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out.
He said: “It is important as many of us as possible get the vaccine, which I think will be rolled out annually similar to the flu vaccine. You may ask ‘if I am young and healthy then why do I need it?’. The answer is that for the vaccine to be effective a large percentage of the UK population will need to be covered.”
Mr Ludzker also warned that the mental health implications of the pandemic and the lockdowns would continue to manifest for years to come. He added: “The mental health effects are going to last long into the future and we need to be mindful of that.”