Covid-19: U-turn on return to work plans

Companies are to be told to put plans for staff to return to work in offices on hold, as the government introduces stricter controls on social and work activity in a bid to contain any escalation in outbreaks of coronavirus

Prime minister Boris Johnson will address the House of Commons later today, with a TV broadcast planned for this evening, following a morning meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee.

The changes to measures to control Covid-19 come in the wake of sombre announcements from senior public health officials at the beginning of the week, outlining fears that a surge in the number of infections, now running at close to 4,000 per day, could see growing numbers of hospitalisations and deaths.

Speaking ahead of Johnson’s announcement, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said new advice would tell people to work from home ‘if possible’, reversing earlier guidelines encouraging a return to Covid-secure workplaces.

The government is said to have paused its aim of getting 80% of civil servants back working in offices.

It has also been widely reported that the government plans to impose a 10pm curfew on all

pubs, restaurants and bars from Thursday. they must also offer table service only and record individuals’ contact details.

These restrictions have brought criticism from the hospitality sector, which is already seeing largescale venue closures and job losses. Earlier this month industry body UKHospitality warned in evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee that at least 900,000 hospitality jobs are at risk unless government offers a sector-specific package of employment support that helps businesses retain workers.

It is unclear what changes may be introduced to the ‘rule of six’ governing how many individuals may meet together indoors or outdoors, or the rules around weddings and funerals. Plans to start trials of larger gathering at sports events have been put on hold.

Pat Sweet |Reporter, Accountancy Daily [2010-2021]

Pat Sweet was the former online reporter at Accountancy Daily and contributor to the monthly Accountancy magazine, pub...

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