Boris Johnson Announces New Rules for the U.K.; France Prepares to Reopen
The Guardian reports that Boris Johnson has announced the first, gradual steps towards loosening the coronavirus lockdown in England. Below is what has been unveiled, plus some other areas where we are still awaiting details. More information is expected to be put to parliament on Monday, and some areas remain opaque.
Return to the workplace if you cannot work from home
The most significant immediate change is Johnson formally urging people who cannot work at home – for example in construction – to return to their jobs from Monday. Johnson said such people “should be actively encouraged to go to work”, while trying to avoid public transport and maintaining physical distancing. While the PM says every workplace should be “Covid-secure”, the plan for more people returning to work will bring fresh warnings from unions about the predicament of staff who feel they are not being kept safe. Unions were sent outline guidance by the government a week ago, and reacted angrily, saying it lacked teeth and could let “bad bosses” force the vulnerable to return to work against their will. It will also be a matter for debate what jobs can and cannot be done from home.
Avoid public transport
For those going back to work, Johnson said they should avoid crowded public transport and either go by car, “or even better by walking or bicycle”. The latter advice follows on from the announcement on Saturday by Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, of new powers for councils to widen pavements and create new cycle lanes to boost active, socially-distanced travel. The hope is to avoid gridlock in towns and cities where many thousands of people choose to drive to work, but Shapps acknowledged that the capacity of Britain’s transport network will be reduced by 90%.
France is set to end eight weeks of strict lockdown as the government urged people to behave responsibly to avoid a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.
Hours before the national déconfinement there were reports of two new Covid-19 clusters in départments designated green – areas where the virus has largely stopped circulating and where most restrictions are being lifted.
Many of the country’s primary and nursery schools are gearing up to restart classes this week, while people will be able to leave home without having to carry sworn attestations.
Business are being encouraged to open but staggering working hours to avoid crowding on public transport and in offices.
The Paris region – which remains designated red because of the continuing threat from the virus – will remain under stricter regulation and workers are being encouraged to continue working from home where possible.