Are we nearly there yet?  

Are we nearly there yet?
Author: Neil McGregor, Chairman of the Board of Directors BRCC

Thirteen months ago – not long after the UK had left the EU and the transitional period had started - we took the decision to send the staff of the British Romanian Chamber of Commerce to work from home. I did the same with the staff of my law firm, as did many other businesses. It has been a transition, if not to say a transformation. What can we expect to see as spring turns into early summer?

For those businesses which have survived – which fortunately appears to include most of the members of the Chamber – there is now the challenge of when and how to move back to what in 2019 was regarded as ”normal”. I have noticed that some people found the lockdown particularly testing over the last winter, but now we see around us increasing numbers of people who have started (or in some cases, completed) the vaccination process, as well as lengthening days and increasingly better weather. Against that, we also, unfortunately, see particular pressure on the intensive care facilities and curfews intended to slow and reduce the virus transmission rate. Seeing the streets of Bucharest almost deserted after eight o’clock in the evening hardly suggests that ”normality” is just around the corner.

The point was brought home to me in trying to plan a business trip from Romania to the UK in June. Some of my fellow directors of the Chamber have travelled internationally since the pandemic began, but my last cross-border trip was the Chamber’s business mission to Chișinău at the end of February 2020. The first issue to consider is that there are different restrictions and requirements according to whether the business visitor from Romania is going to Scotland, England, Wales or Northern Ireland. It appears to me that as a British citizen returning to the UK from work/residence in Romania the most user-friendly requirements are in Wales, but unfortunately, my business requires me to go to London, rather than Cardiff.

At the time of writing, Romania was not on the ”Red List” of countries from which travellers to the UK are placed under particular restrictions. The ”Red List” is however updated from time to time as conditions change and whilst I hope that Romania will never be included in that list, I cannot say that this will certainly be so.

There is also an extensive list of jobs that qualify for exemption from some of the restrictions on international travel. It appears to me that these are aimed more at people who travel to do particular kinds of work than they are at people who travel to do business.

Despite the speculation in the media about ”vaccine passports” I could see nothing in the published regulations about what difference – if any – completion of a course of vaccinations will make (it appears that, unlike the UK, Romania gives a definite date and time for a second vaccination before the first vaccination is given, which allows for a welcome degree of certainty in forward planning).

To add to the uncertainties of planning a business trip to the UK from Romania, there of course need to be considered any restrictions which will apply to the traveller on return to Romania.

If, as appears likely, any international business trip will involve one or more periods of self-isolation, the question arises as to whether such a trip should be bothered with, particularly in view of the skills which most, if not all of us have developed in video conferencing over the last year.

Restrictions on international travel – and on travel within the UK – may be hoped to be eased as we move into summer. However, for reasons which should be evident to all of us, it certainly cannot be taken as a certainty that this will be so.

In view of the uncertainties which still remain, I would not plan or make a business visit to the UK from Romania in the near future, unless such a trip was unavoidable. I think that it can be said that an international business visitor will be able to arrive and leave safely and that, with due care, it is unlikely that the traveller will be exposed to any greater risk of infection than if he or she had stayed at home. What is uncertain is the degree of inconvenience or ”down time” involved in getting there and in coming back. In these circumstances, I think that it makes more sense to travel if one is going to spend a reasonably long time in the destination country, and certainly if one is able to work remotely during the periods of self-isolation which appear to be necessary. These are the policies which I have seen adopted by those people I know who have travelled to or from Romania and the UK.

In the meantime, if businesspeople cannot travel in person and there is a limit to what can be done in video conferences, the obvious solution appears to be to find a reliable local representative or agent to work with. Being a bilateral organisation, the BRCC can help to locate suitable local contacts and indeed we have already done so for a number of businesses, both in Romania and in the UK. To contact us to enquire about this, our contact details can be found at www.brcconline.eu.

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18 October 2021

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