Government produces draft plan to ease Covid-19 lockdown
The UK government’s draft plan to ease the Covid-19 lockdown includes numerous social distancing measures, including staggering shift times, continuing to encourage home-working, and reducing the numbers of people using particular pieces of equipment.
The strategy recommends additional steps such as erecting physical screens between desk spaces and making employees wear protective equipment where keeping a distance of two metres apart is not viable.
Prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to present the government’s official exit strategy this week. The next review of the UK’s lockdown measures is due on May 7, this Thursday.
However, unions have raised concerns over personal protective equipment [PPE], saying that procurement efforts could see businesses competing with the NHS for finite resources.
The draft plan does not give any detail around PPE supply, only that “more detail” will follow.
Meanwhile, the Labour Party has called on the government to stockpile face masks, to guarantee sufficient supply if official guidelines on wearing them alters.
The government has not yet recommended wearing masks, but Johnson has suggested that they may be “useful” as part of the future exit strategy.
The Scottish government has already asked citizens to use face coverings both in shops and in enclosed spaces, such as public transport.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said that the government was considering whether to make wearing face masks an official recommendation, and was “trying to source as many masks as possible” in the meantime.
Discussing wider elements of the plan, Wallace told the BBC that the protective screens mentioned in the plan will be introduced in a similar vein to those now in place at supermarket checkouts.
Speaking at Sunday’s daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street, chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove, said that the UK would not instantly “go back to the old normal” and that the easing of the lockdown would come in phases, to allow the government to “monitor the impact that those changes are having on public health”.
Elsewhere on Sunday, transport secretary Grant Shapps told the BBC that more train and bus services would be introduced, and he would ask operators to stagger workers’ shifts in an effort to prevent overcrowding.
However, rail unions have now written to the prime minister in opposition.
A joint letter from the ASLEF, RMT and TSSA unions reads: "We will not accept new working patterns that put the lives of railway workers and passengers at risk.”
The official number of UK deaths from Covid-19 has now reached 28,446. A further 14,248 are receiving hospital treatment, but the number of admissions has dropped, alongside the rate of patients in intensive care.