Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

Coronavirus warning: Should we work from home? Latest Government guidance

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COVID cases are rising by the thousands every day, with 4,368 new cases declared on Monday alone. The data of the potential impact shown at a conference held by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Advisor Sir Patrick Vallance demonstrated a staggering 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by October should the trend continue.

As he revealed a graph which was “not a prediction” Sir Patrick said the “50,000 cases per day would be expected to lead a month later, so the middle of November, say, to 200-plus deaths per day”.

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to address the House of Commons before giving an address to the nation at 8pm.

He will announce a 10pm curfew for bars, restaurants and pubs across England in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, described the new restrictions as “another crushing blow” for many businesses.

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She said: “It is hard to understand how these measures are the solution to fighting the disease when Government data shows that just five percent of infections out of the home are related to hospitality.”

There are also concerns the measures will trigger a spate of illegal house parties and gatherings.

Michael Kill, chief executive of the Night-Time Industries Association, warned the measures could trigger “a surge of unregulated events and house parties which are the real hot-beds of infection, attended by frustrated young people denied access to safe and legitimate night-time hospitality venues”.

The hosts of such events could be fined up to £10,000, with police working to shut down any reported rule breakers.

Should we work from home?

Previously Mr Johnson had said those who could return to work safely should do so, however, this advice has since been dropped.

The PM is expected to tell the nation to work at home where they can in a return to advice implemented during lockdown.

Michael Gove, the minister for the cabinet office, told Sky News: “One of the things we are going to emphasise is that if it is possible for people to work from home, we are going to encourage them to do so.

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“There is going to be a shift in emphasis.”

Working from home will reduce the numbers of people on public transport, as well as stopping the spread of coronavirus in office environments.

According to snippets of tonight’s speech provided by Downing Street, Mr Johnson will say: “We know this won’t be easy, but we must take further action to control the resurgence in cases of the virus and protect the NHS.”

Today Mr Johnson will chair meetings of Cabinet and the Cobra emergency committee to discuss the spiking cases.

The UK’s four chief medical officers on Monday recommended raising the COVID alert level from three to four.

This would be the second-highest level, and means the “epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially”.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is also expected to give details of stricter coronavirus measures for Scotland following the Cobra meeting on Tuesday morning.

At 12.30pm today, Mr Johnson will address the Commons and face MPs, some of whom are calling on a national lockdown to address the spiking COVID-19 cases.

The possibility of a two week “circuit break” has been touted, but with tonight’s address focused on curfews, it seems this is not yet in the offing. 

The so called circuit break would be a short, sharp shock, returning to full lockdown for two weeks to halt the virus in its tracks.

However, the Prime Minister is caught between ministers who are calling for tougher measures to control the virus and those who want to keep the economy as open as possible to protect jobs and livelihoods.

With the furlough scheme soon ending, no doubt Mr Johnson will face calls to extend or offer a similar package to those impacted by the ongoing upheaval.

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