By Andrew Montague

AS Aberdeen residents and businesses weather the city’s second lockdown, it’s time for fresh thinking on how we manage the Covid-19 challenge to protect public health and prevent further damage to the economy.

While the blanket shutdown of Scotland’s third biggest city is a crude tool, many believe it was the right option following the spike in cases that were traced to a number of city centre pubs. Aberdeen businesses are now hoping this latest lockdown will be temporary so they can get back to trading in an effort to recoup the losses they’ve already incurred since having to initially close their doors in March. As they prepare for reopening many will be considering what more they can to control the spread of the virus and prevent further shutdowns, especially towards the end of the year when colder weather presents a greater risk of another outbreak.

Further lockdowns are devastating to people’s livelihoods, destroying businesses and adversely impacting on any hope for a short-term economic recovery, and must be avoided at all cost. While the Scottish Government, which is ultimately responsible for safeguarding public health, has a major role to play, I believe businesses are better placed to make things happen and to do so far more quickly.

The best way forward should involve a new approach with business taking the lead to implement greater safety measures with the support of government and other public sector bodies.

This will start with business owners and managers stepping up and being more proactive in ensuring they operate within a safer framework to stop the spread of this virus. As well as providing a clean and safe environment for their customers at all times, they will also need to consider implementing other creative measures and better utilising existing technology.

We are already seeing a number of examples of this across the globe where businesses are driving forward on-the-ground initiatives to reduce the risk of a further lockdown. Restaurants in Kinsale, in County Cork, Ireland have, for example, begun testing the temperatures of all their customers upon entry. Meanwhile Tourism Portugal has introduced “Safe & Clean” certification which enables participating hotels to provide the reassurance they have undertaken the appropriate level of disinfecting and have made hand sanitiser available to guests throughout their stay. Even McDonald’s has gone beyond government guidelines by making the wearing of masks mandatory for all customers entering any of their 14,000 US restaurants.

While businesses in Aberdeen and throughout Scotland should be taking the lead in bringing new and effective measures to fruition, the support of the Scottish Government will be essential as well as beneficial. Agencies including Scottish Enterprise, where we have made initial representations on this issue, could provide grants and other support measures. This could help many hard-pressed businesses put temperature monitoring devices for both staff and customers as well as other facilities in place at a time when the strain on their finances may otherwise prevent such expenditure. This would put even more pressure on the public purse, but it would be a sensible investment if it prevents the economic carnage that comes from further lockdowns.

Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership has been solid throughout much of this pandemic. If she is serious about Scotland rebuilding its economy she should require business to take a greater role in proactively preventing the risk of further outbreaks of the pandemic but also provide the appropriate support to enable it to do this.

Andrew Montague is CEO of ClearWater Hygiene