Businesses demand guidelines
Workers may stagger start times to avoid crowding
Commuters may have to stagger journeys (pic: Terry Murden)
UK Transport secretary Grant Shapps said today that businesses could be asked to stagger employees’ working hours to help prevent crowding on public transport as businesses return to work.
Trains, buses and transport interchanges could also be equipped with hand sanitiser, as hand-washing remained more important than wearing face masks, he said.
He ruled out temperature checks for people using public transport, saying that if anyone had a temperature they should be at home and not travelling at all.
Sources also expect companies to accept new ‘risk assessment’ guidance before allowing employees to return to work, and that this will include a halt to hot-desking and sharing office equipment, closure of canteens and limits on how many should use lifts at one time.
The latest thinking by government comes as UK ministers were urged to “be bold” and immediately set out plans for a “carefully phased” lifting of the coronavirus lockdown.
Grant Shapps: ruled out temperature checks
Mr Shapps also joined calls for a compulsory 14-day quarantine on anyone arriving in the country, suggested by Daily Business on 10 April, and which has been adopted by other countries.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airline UK, which represents a number of airlines, said a quarantine would “would effectively kill air travel”.
He said it would “completely shut off the UK from the rest of the world when other countries are opening up their economies” and described the possible quarantine measure as a “blunt tool”.
The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) said the imminent publication of guidance from the government about the safe return to work must include mass testing and contact tracing.
In a letter to Mr Johnson, BCC president Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith said planning and communication of the government’s approach to leaving lockdown “must begin immediately if we are to harness the public health and economic benefits”.
“Fundamental prerequisites to beginning this journey include mass testing and contact tracing,” she said.
Some of Britain’s big construction firms are preparing for a resumption of work at building sites in England from Monday, insisting they have put sufficient health and safety measures in place.
Boris Johnson has said he will outline plans relating to schools, commuting and the workplace in the coming week.
But the PM stressed the UK must not “risk a second spike” in infections. His view have been backed by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, although the Scottish government continues to take a hard line on construction sites which must remain closed in Scotland except for essential work.
Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director General, said: “The challenge of restarting the economy without compromising health unites us all.
“Lockdown was a necessarily brutal, sharp process, and firms had to wait for clear guidance. Now that’s available, many businesses are expanding operations and safely protecting livelihoods.
“Restart will be more gradual, giving us time to plan and prepare properly.
Josh Hardie: ‘firms need clear guidance’
“There are clear lockdown lessons that firms will be looking to for the next phase. Restart must put health first, or it will risk sending the economy backwards.
“It must continue the Government’s approach of flexibility within a framework. This means firms receive clear guidance and can move at speeds that suit their circumstances. Critically, it also means those who have already invested heavily in safety don’t have to start again.
“Restart should also be phased, built on the enablers of revival: schools, transport and testing; and underpinned by a new wave of economic support.”
Rest of world slowly returns to work
Europe today prepared for a further cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions following signs the pandemic may be slowing.
The Irish government has received plaudits for publishing a detailed and transparent step-by-step map for leaving lockdown.
The country’s lockdown has been extended for another two weeks to 18 May when it will introduce a phased, five-stage exit over three months.
Spaniards took to the streets on Saturday for the first time after 48 days of confinement while Italy is due start gradually relaxing its strict lockdown measures tomorrow.
Face masks will be mandatory on public transport throughout Spain starting Monday.
In Italy – with the second-highest number of virus deaths in the world – people will be allowed to visit parks and relatives. Restaurants can open for takeaways and wholesale stores can resume business.
Germany will allow some schools to reopen, while Slovenia and Poland will relax restrictions on businesses and public spaces.
France will partially lift its lockdown on 11 May, including the reopening of primary schools.
With health experts warning the disease could hit hard once again, governments are sticking to measures to control the spread of the virus and more testing to try to track infections even as they relax curbs on movement.
Demonstrators in the US demand a return to work
The United States, which has the most coronavirus deaths in the world, is facing growing civil unrest with some demonstrators carrying arms.
There are signs the pandemic may be slowing and Florida is set to ease its lockdown on Monday,
An emergency field hospital erected in Central Park, New York is set to close in another sign that the worst may be over.
Asia is also slowly recovering. South Korea will ease a ban on some gatherings and events and Thailand is allowing businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and outdoor markets to reopen under strict conditions.