Boris Johnson urges Britons to ‘go back into work if they can’ saying the country must try to ‘live more normally’ in dramatic shift from government’s ‘work from home’ edict
Boris Johnson tonight urged Britons to get back into work – in an apparent shift from the government’s ‘work from home if you can’ edict.
The PM suggested people should return to the office if it is ‘safe’ as he held an online Q&A session with members of the public.
The comments seem to mark a change in the message from ministers, amid mounting concerns about a bloodbath of jobs on the high street as lockdown wreaks havoc on the economy.
Cafes and coffee shops have been slashing jobs as demand has all-but dried up in many towns and cities, with huge numbers still working from home rather than going to the office.
However, there are concerns that many workers will be unable to return even if they want to, as social distancing rules mean there is not enough physical space and public transport cannot run at full capacity.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveiled another massive package to revive UK plc this week, urging people to help out by spending money with businesses crippled by the efforts to combat coronavirus.
The PM suggested people should return to the office if it is ‘safe’ as he held an online Q&A session with members of the public
There are fears that 1980s-style unemployment will make a comeback unless normal consumer behaviour resumes, with forecasts that the UK jobless rate will top 10 per cent by the end of the year.
Mr Johnson said today: ‘I want people to go back to work as carefully as possible.
‘It’s very important that people should be going back to work if they can now.
‘I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ – I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can’. Because I think it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives more normally.
‘I want to see more people feeling confident to use the shops, use the restaurants, and get back into work – but only if we all follow the guidance.’
Mr Johnson also hinted that face coverings will be made compulsory in shops in a bid to reassure nervous customers.
He admitted that ‘the balance of scientific opinion seemed to have shifted’ over how effective makeshift masks can be.
‘I do think we need to be stricter in insisting people wear face coverings in confined spaces where they are meeting people they don’t normally meet,’ Mr Johnson said.
‘We are looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission.’
The shift came after lockdown was significantly eased in England from last Saturday, with pubs and restaurants allowed to open as long as they have ‘Covid Secure’ precautions in place.
However, the PM’s advice for UK employees to work from home where possible seeming still applied until now.
In more evidence of the woes on the high street today, pharmacies insisted they need £370million of loans for PPE and other coronavirus measures turned into a grant by the government.
The chair of the National Pharmacy Association Andrew Lane said: “There are many community pharmacies up and down the country on the financial brink, crippled by the extra cost of COVID19. If they close, the towns and villages they serve will lose a popular and life-saving asset.
‘Similarly, if the government is serious about stopping the slow death of the high street it needs to act now and put its money where its mouth is.
‘The government managed to find more than a billion pounds for the arts sector yet is dithering over financial aid to frontline health workers.’