Government U-turn: Do not go back into the office
Three weeks ago they said the opposite
Not a month after encouraging workers back into their offices, the UK government now says they should work from home.
As coronavirus cases increase across the country Boris Johnson is expected to announce a host of changes to daily life, including an enforced closure of pubs, restaurants and bars from 10pm.
This information was briefed out to the press on Monday night but on Tuesday morning Michael Gove said in a broadcast interview with Sky News: "If it is possible for people to work from home, then we'd encourage them to do so.
"Now it's important to stress that there are many, many, many roles which can't be performed from home. There are people in manufacturing, in construction, in retail and in other roles where we recognise that's simply impossible.
"That's why we have worked to make sure that you can have COVID-secure workplaces and we need to balance, obviously, the need to ensure that people can continue to work and indeed, critically, continue to go to school and to benefit from education, against taking steps to try to reduce the virus.
"Which is why if we can limit or appropriately restrain social contact, that's what we're trying to do."
The cabinet secretary described this as "a shift in emphasis."
Should we begin to work from home again?
"If it is possible for people to work from home, then we'd encourage them to do so," says Cabinet Office Minister @michaelgove.
But Mr Gove adds that those who cannot do so should still go to "COVID-secure" workplaces. DC#KayBurley pic.twitter.com/ql0UuWPPZo
— Kay Burley (@KayBurley) September 22, 2020
Shift in emphasis down plays the size of the reversal. On August 28 The Daily Telegraph's front page quoted government ministers saying "Go back to work or risk losing your job."
It reported an upcoming 'media blitz' from the prime minister. which never materialised, urging people back to their workplaces under pressure from Conservative backbench MPs.
29 August, “Go back to work or risk losing your job”. 19 September, “£10,000 fine for leaving your house.” And the government wonders why people are confused about the rules. pic.twitter.com/ApQdYv23jm
— Bill Esterson (@Bill_Esterson) September 19, 2020
On BBC Breakfast Gove was pressed on the extent of this policy U-turn he replied: "No, it is a response to the spread of the virus. A stitch in time saves nine."
Further measures announced include giving police powers to issue £1,000 fines and make arrests to enforce two-metre social distancing.
Pubs, restaurants and bars will only be able to offer table service and, from Thursday, must close at 10pm.
“The epidemic is doubling roughly every seven days.”
Patrick Vallance says coronavirus cases are increasing across all age groups in the UK. pic.twitter.com/vzMLM1p94S
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) September 21, 2020
This comes after the government's leading scientist, Sir Patrick Vallance, said coronavirus cases were doubling roughly every seven days and the COVID alert level was raised to 4, meaning transmission is "high or rising exponentially."
At lunchtime Boris Johnson will address the House of Commons and tighten current restrictions, a change to the rule of six is also expected.