This afternoon, the UK Government published their OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy 60 page document setting out the next steps in the plan to manage the coronavirus crisis. The headlines are that if your place of work is open, and you can’t work from home, then you should go back to work, where possible avoiding public transport. It’s worth noting that whilst this is the UK Government guidance, it only applies to England. Scotland Wales and Northern Ireland are issuing their own advice which is largely stay at home.
In his foreward to OUR PLAN TO REBUILD, Boris points out that only a vaccine will ensure 100% safety, but that this is months away, if it ever happens at all. That’s why the OUR PLAN TO REBUILD is designed to start getting the country moving again in a managed way to limit the spread of the virus.
“It is clear that the only feasible long-term solution lies with a vaccine or drug-based treatment…
…But while we hope for a breakthrough, hope is not a plan. A mass vaccine or treatment may be more than a year away. Indeed, in a worst-case scenario, we may never find a vaccine. So our plan must countenance a situation where we are in this, together, for the long haul, even while doing all we can to avoid that outcome.”
– Boris Johnson
OUR PLAN TO REBUILD – What you need to know about going back to work
The first steps apply from from Wednesday the 13th of May in England. As the rate of infection may be different in different parts of the UK, this guidance should be considered alongside local public health and safety requirements for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Work from home where possible
For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. This will help minimise the number of social contacts across the country and therefore keep transmissions as low as possible. All those who work are contributing taxes that help pay for the healthcare provision on which the UK relies. People who are able to work at home make it possible for people who have to attend workplaces in person to do so while minimising the risk of overcrowding on transport and in public places.
Avoid public transport to travel to work
All workers who cannot work from home should travel to work if their workplace is open. 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. The only exceptions to this are those workplaces such as hospitality and non-essential retail which during this first step the Government is requiring to remain closed.
It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate, as should those in their households.
When travelling everybody (including critical workers) should continue to avoid public transport wherever possible. If they can, people should instead choose to cycle, walk or drive, to minimise the number of people with whom they come into close contact.
COVID-19 Secure Guidelines for employers to be published this week
As soon as practicable, workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, which will be published this week. These will ensure the risk of infection is as low as possible, while allowing as many people as possible to resume their livelihoods.
Social distancing guidance on public transport must be followed rigorously. As with workplaces, transport operators should follow appropriate guidance to make their services COVID-19 Secure; this will be published this week.
Face coverings advice
As more people return to work, there will be more movement outside people’s immediate household. This increased mobility means the Government is now advising that people should aim to wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces where social distancing is not always possible and they come into contact with others that they do not normally meet, for example on public transport or in some shops.
Home made cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances. Face-coverings are not intended to help the wearer, but to protect against inadvertent transmission of the disease to others if you have it asymptomatically.
Reduce contact even at work
Reduce the number of people you spend time with in a work setting where you can. You can lower the risks of transmission in the workplace by reducing the number of people you come into contact with regularly, which your employer can support where practical by changing shift patterns and rotas to match you with the same team each time and splitting people into smaller, contained teams.
Once the COVID-19 Secure guidelines are published we’ll update you on guidance for employers. In the mean time you can read the full OUR PLAN TO REBUILD: The UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery strategy document (which also includes, for example, guidance on meeting one person outside your household in a park) here.