The year 2020 has been exceptional in its radical push for adaptation in social and economic norms globally. In the last 20 years, we have seen a rapid increase in the movement of people, goods and services around the world. The modern global supply chain has reached a high level of efficiency, bringing heightened economic interdependence between countries. Economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic has revealed the supply chain’s fragility and slowness to react to sudden disruptions. The need to establish a robust form of economic collaboration through modern technology, such as greater digitalisation and robotisation of the supply chain, is becoming ever more important as it is unclear when the ongoing pandemic will end – and whether another might not follow.
It has been a challenging period for many countries, including the UK, as dealing with the consequences of the pandemic went in parallel with negotiations on a trade agreement with the EU. Looking at how this year has gone might give a good indication to what we can expect in the coming year. The first chart shows how the spread of infection increased at the start of the pandemic in March, to then temporarily subside during the summer. By the end of the year, the UK and many other countries globally were amid a second wave that appears to be higher than the first. The blue line shows how the increase in infections affected mobility to work. Working from home has become a new norm for many people since early this year, and that looks unlikely to change any time soon.