On Sunday, Boris Johnson announced a “conditional plan” to begin lifting England’s coronavirus lockdown. The plan outlined a “Covid-19 alert system”, that will influence how quickly the lockdown can be lifted in accordance with three conditional stages. Mr. Johnson said the government would begin with the first stage on Wednesday.
His announcement changed the message from “stay at home” to “stay alert”. The first stage acknowledges that people can now take unlimited amounts of outdoor recreational activity, and are also allowed to meet with one other person from a different household, providing social distancing measures are observed.
Perhaps one of the most significant shifts of emphasis concerns the resuming of operations for those businesses that are able to do so. Sectors of the economy that are allowed to be open should be open, for example this includes food production, construction, manufacturing, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. In his address, the PM said people who could not work from home should be “actively encouraged to go back to work”, while avoiding public transport wherever possible.
Among those industries being encouraged back to work are the construction and manufacturing industries. This will allow major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and HS2 to progress, while ensuring high value manufacturing, such as car manufacture, can resume operations providing strict protocol is observed.
In the UK car sales declined by 44.4%, while sales numbers across Europe plummeted even further. The Volkswagen Group, PSA Group, Toyota and Volvo are among the firms to have resumed operations at some European plants. In the UK, luxury automobile manufacturers like Aston Martin, Jaguar and Rolls Royce led the way.
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg suggested that The Prime Minister’s decision to encourage people back to work came in response to more businesses closing than was originally anticipated. This has resulted in mounting economic pressure to lift the lockdown. The need to get people back to work in key areas of production is supported by Volvo’s Mr Samuelsson, who stated: “We cannot have shutting down as the long-term solution. We cannot wait for a vaccine, so we have to learn to live and work in a safe environment.”
A 50-page guidance document was published by the government yesterday, along with sector specific guidance documents for businesses. Covid-19 workplace protocol is expected to include measures such increased car parking spaces, partitioning in canteens, shift working and increased sanitation measures. Some businesses are also looking at temperature testing staff entering and leaving the site.
The relaxing of measures comes after the government significantly increasing their testing capacity, while also subduing the rate of infection to a figure below 1. Trials have also begun on a potential vaccine, and various Covid-19 treatments. Mr Johnson said he hoped by 1 June there could be a phased reopening of shops and some primary aged pupils could return to school. The third step could see some hospitality businesses and other public places reopen by 1 July.
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