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Government to urge people to cycle or walk to work – and wear face masks

Boris Johnson’s plan to ease the UK’s coronavirus lockdown will see people urged to cycle to work, firms told to provide staff with face masks and garden centres allowed to reopen from Wednesday. 

The Prime Minister will use an address to the nation tomorrow night to set out his lockdown exit strategy. 

He told Cabinet last week that he will be proceeding with ‘maximum caution’ in order to avoid a second wave of deadly infections. 

But he is expected to detail initial changes to some of the draconian curbs currently in place to allow the UK economy to get moving again. 

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, is due to use his appearance at the daily Downing Street press conference this afternoon to announce a major cash injection to improve cycle lanes. 

An emphasis is likely to be placed on increased cycling in the coming weeks due to fears that the public transport network will not be able to cope with a surge in passenger numbers while also trying to stick to social distancing rules. 

Transport unions have threatened to derail any move to get too many people back onto trains and buses as chiefs have said they ‘will not compromise on the health, safety and livelihoods of our members’.  

Teaching unions have sounded a similar warning relating to the phased return of schools. 

Boris Johnson, pictured in St James’ Park in London this morning, will set out his lockdown exit plan tomorrow night

The plan is expected to encourage people to cycle or walk to work if they can, with firms also due to be told to provide workers with face masks. Cyclists are pictured at Buckingham Palace yesterday

The plan is expected to encourage people to cycle or walk to work if they can, with firms also due to be told to provide workers with face masks. Cyclists are pictured at Buckingham Palace yesterday 

The government is also expected to tell all travellers returning to the UK they will have to self-isolate for 14 days or face fines. Heathrow Terminal 5 is pictured on March 15

The government is also expected to tell all travellers returning to the UK they will have to self-isolate for 14 days or face fines. Heathrow Terminal 5 is pictured on March 15

Garden centres to be given green light to reopen on Wednesday

Garden centres in England will be allowed to reopen on Wednesday under Boris Johnson’s lockdown exit strategy. 

The Prime Minister is expected to confirm the move when he addresses the nation tomorrow night.  

Nursery bosses will have to ensure shoppers obey social distancing measures, such as keeping two metres away from others. 

They will also be expected to put other restrictions in place, including queuing systems and installing Perspex shields to protect till staff, in a similar way to supermarkets. 

A senior Government source said: ‘Garden centres are typically open large open-air spaces where the risk of transmission of coronavirus is lower.

‘With strict social distancing measures in place we believe they can open safely from next week.’  

Ministers are thought to want to start sending children back to classrooms in June but unions have said they will not sign off on the plans until a test and tracing system is fully operational. 

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is also expected to announce that firms will be required to provide returning staff with face coverings. 

The wearing of such masks will not be compulsory in England but it will be recommended while at work, while shopping and while using public transport. 

The Cabinet Office has paid for machines to make the coverings which will then be sent to companies to allocate in order to avoid a run on medical-grade masks which the NHS needs, according to The Telegraph. 

However, such a move is unlikely to be enough for critics, with former health secretary Jeremy Hunt today arguing that temperature-checking machines should be installed at the entrances to all restaurants and offices.  

Mr Johnson’s long-anticipated ‘road map’ for getting out of lockdown is expected to set out ‘milestones’ for the easing of measures. 

Initial changes – some starting from Monday – are likely to focus on outdoor activities due to the reduced rate of transmission outdoors compared to indoors.

Mr Johnson will announce that garden centres will be allowed to open their doors to customers from Wednesday May 13.

Travellers returning to UK face two weeks in self-isolation

All travellers returning to Britain could be quarantined for two weeks and face £1,000 fines or deportation if they fail to do so in dramatic plans that could effectively suspend foreign holidays for the length of the coronavirus crisis.   

The Government immediately faced questions today about why a similar measure had not been put into place earlier, with 15,000 travellers arriving in the UK every week in April with no screening.  

The travel industry reacted with horror to the proposals, with one company boss warning it could ‘kill it off completely’. 

Industry group Airlines UK said the proposal, reported by The Times, would ‘effectively end international travel to and from the UK’ and cause ‘immeasurable damage’ to the aviation industry and wider economy.  

Boris Johnson is expected on Sunday to announce that passengers including Britons arriving at UK ports and airports from all countries except Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man must fill in a digital form telling officials where the intend to self-isolate. Lorry drivers will be exempt. 

It is not clear where this data would be stored or exactly how the programme would be enforced, although it will include spot checks. Tourism groups want the measure to be reviewed every week to check its effectiveness.  

Nursery bosses will have to ensure shoppers obey social distancing measures, such as keeping two metres away from others, and will be expected to put restrictions in place, including queuing systems and installing Perspex shields to protect till staff, in a similar way to supermarkets.

A senior Government source said: ‘Garden centres are typically open large open-air spaces where the risk of transmission of coronavirus is lower.

‘With strict social distancing measures in place we believe they can open safely from next week.’ 

It is also understood ministers are preparing to recommend that commuters use their bicycles for journeys to work, in a bid to reduce the number of people using public transport. 

Mr Shapps will later unveil a further £250 million for extra cycle lanes, while trials on the use of e-scooters on British roads are due to be fast-tracked. 

The lockdown plan is due to set out a phased restarting of the UK economy with different sectors returning at different times. 

However, those workers who can work from home could soon be given the legal right to do so.

This would stop them feeling compelled to go to the office, make it easier for workplaces to comply with social distancing measures and reduce the strain on public transport. 

The plans are under consideration by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, according to The Telegraph. 

Polls suggest the Government could face an uphill battle to persuade some workers to return to their firms with much of the UK population having some degree of ‘coronaphobia’. 

A survey conducted by YouGov between May 7-8 found that just 15 per cent of the population believe Mr Johnson should immediately lift coronavirus restrictions. 

When asked if it was right to lift the lockdown now, some 75 per cent said it would be wrong, 15 per cent said it would be right and 10 per cent said they didn’t know.

Commuters are still using public transport including the Northern Line in London, but there is a lot more space compared to passenger numbers before the coronavirus lockdown

Commuters are still using public transport including the Northern Line in London, but there is a lot more space compared to passenger numbers before the coronavirus lockdown

Unions threaten to derail phased return of schools until demands are met

Union chiefs have threatened to derail plans for the phased return of schools in June. 

Ministers want to start sending children back to school within weeks. 

But unions have said they will only sign off on a return once their demands are met. 

They include that a ‘test and trace’ system is fully operational so that all new cases of coronavirus can be immediately located and isolated.

Other demands include extra money for deep cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE) and local powers to close schools if clusters of Covid-19 infections break out in a particular area. 

Unions sent a joint statement to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Friday by bodies including the NAHT school leaders union and the National Education Union (NEU).

Published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it called for ‘clear scientific published evidence that trends in transmission of Covid-19 will not be adversely impacted by the reopening phase and that schools are also safe to reopen’.   

Ministers are believed to be targeting a phased return for schools in June but unions could stand in the way of that happening. 

Union bosses have sent a list of key measures to the Government which they say must be met before pupils in England can safely return to their desks.

It includes extra money for deep cleaning and personal protective equipment (PPE) and local powers to close schools if clusters of Covid-19 infections break out in a particular area.   

The joint statement was sent to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson on Friday by bodies including the NAHT school leaders union and the National Education Union (NEU). 

The tests that the school workforce unions said were ‘essential’ to have in place before pupils return include no increase in pupil numbers until full rollout of a national test and trace scheme. 

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘Parents and staff need full confidence that schools will be safe before any pupils return. 

‘The government must work closely with unions to agree a plan that meets the tests we have set out.’

Unions are also flexing their muscles when it comes to the return of more public transport services due to concerns about staff safety.   

RMT General Secretary Mick Cash said: ‘There is a headlong dash to lift the lockdown on our transport services for the 18th May and it is fraught with danger for both passengers and staff alike.

‘To maintain the Governments own social distancing guidance would mean huge logistical and staffing input to ‎manage passenger flows onto trains and it is imperative that all staff involved in this process are properly protected.

‘RMT will not compromise on the health, safety and livelihoods of our members and we will not agree to anything that fails to put the safety of staff and passengers first. 

‘If that means advising our members not to work under conditions that are unsafe and in breach of the government’s own guidelines then that is exactly what we will do.’ 

As well as setting out how measures will be eased, the PM’s plan will also detail how some rules will be toughened to avoid a second peak of the disease. 

That is expected to include requiring all travellers returning to the UK to self-isolate for 14 days, dashing hopes of a swift return to foreign holidays.  

The Times said that those who break the rules could face fines of up to £1,000 or even deportation. 

Such a measure is seen as key to stopping a second wave once the UK has suppressed the number of domestic cases. 

Briefing reporters on Friday, Downing Street confirmed quarantining foreign visitors was being ‘looked at’. 

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford preempted the 'exit strategy' from Westminster as he declared that only 'small and modest' easings are possible to avoid coronavirus flaring up again

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon stopped short of announcing any loosening at her briefing in Edinburgh this afternoon, saying the 'only thing' they are looking at is permitting more outdoor exercise

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford preempted the ‘exit strategy’ from Westminster as he declared yesterday that only ‘small and modest’ easings are possible to avoid coronavirus flaring up again. Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon (right) stopped short of announcing any loosening at her briefing in Edinburgh, saying the ‘only thing’ they are looking at is permitting more outdoor exercise

Employees ‘could get legal right to work from home’

Ministers are considering enshrining a right to work from home into UK law in order to better prepare the nation for post-lockdown life. 

The merits of such a move are being weighed up by officials at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

It is thought the plans are being modelled on existing rules that allow parents to request flexible working.  

Ministers believe a legal right to work from home could be beneficial for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, it would reduce the number of staff physically present, making it easier for firms to adhere to social distancing. 

Secondly, it would stop workers from feeling compelled to go to an office they do not believe is safe. 

Third, it would reduce pressure on the UK transport network.

One minister told The Telegraph the move ‘makes complete sense’. 

The Prime Minister’s Official Spokesman said: ‘I think ministers have said the issue of looking to ensure, as we really drive down transmission in the UK, that we are able to ensure the virus is not being brought into the country from overseas is one they are actively considering.’

Ministers have tried to downplay differences emerging between the four UK nations on lockdown measures, stating there was no ‘need to get too worked up about timings of different announcements’.

The devolved administration in Wales has announced ‘modest adjustments’ to the restrictions on movement, put in place across the UK to stem the transmission of Covid-19.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the changes, coming into force on Monday, included allowing more than one form of exercise per day and permitting garden centres and public libraries to reopen.

But in Scotland, only alterations to exercise guidance are expected, while those in Northern Ireland have been told there will be just ‘nuanced changes’ to the clampdown on movement.

Environment Secretary George Eustice attempted to temper expectations yesterday as he warned there would be no ‘dramatic overnight change’ to restrictions.

Mr Drakeford said this morning that the changes made in Wales were ‘very modest’ and he expected them to be broadly in line with what Mr Johnson announces tomorrow. 

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘We were clearly convinced that only the very smallest and most modest steps … were allowable at this time.

‘You’ve heard what the Prime Minister’s spokesman has been saying over the last couple of days, that the Prime Minister also thinks maximum caution is the way to approach the immediate future.

‘We’ll hear from the Prime Minister on Sunday the details of what he proposes for England, my view is we’ll be very much in line with one another.

‘Our new regime won’t come in until Monday, so we’ll move in a timely way together across the UK and I still think that is very much a preferable route.

However, Mr Drakeford signalled England and Wales could do different things when it comes to education as he said schools there will not reopen in June.  

‘We’re not convinced at this point that opening schools in any significant way would be the right thing to do,’ he told Today.

‘We’re not going to be reopening schools in Wales in the next three weeks, or indeed in June.’  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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