Chambers respond to Government’s Covid-19 recovery strategy and workplace guidance

Yesterday, the UK government published their Coronavirus recovery strategy. This document describes the progress the UK has made to date in tackling the Coronavirus outbreak and sets out the government’s plans for the next phases of its response. The government has also updated its guidance for businesses on working safely during Coronavirus.

The UK Government timetable has published a three-step plan for lifting restrictions. If the Government sees a rise in the infection rate, they may seek to re-impose restrictions in some form.  A link to the full document can be found here.

Timescales

Step One – Wednesday 13 May

Step Two – No earlier than Monday 1 June

Step Three – No earlier than 4 July

Commenting on the publication of the UK Government’s COVID-19 recovery plan and associated workplace guidance, Nova Fairbank, Head of Policy for Norfolk Chambers of Commerce said:

"This is a significant step forward in terms of the information available for businesses, who will now need to digest the detail. The guidance signals big changes for the way that many businesses operate, and some firms will now need time to plan and speak to their employees so that they can return to work safely.

"Alongside this guidance, businesses urgently need clarity on the future of government support schemes, which must be adapted to help those firms who need to remain closed for an extended period or face reduced capacity or demand."

Step One (Comes into effect on Wednesday 13 May2020):

1. Work

  • For the foreseeable future, workers should continue to work from home rather than their normal physical workplace, wherever possible. 
  • 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.
  • 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. Workplaces that the government is requiring to remain closed include:
    • restaurants and cafes, other than for takeaway
    • pubs, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs
    • clothing and electronics stores; hair, beauty and nail salons; and outdoor and indoor markets (not selling food)
    • libraries, community centres, and youth centres indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, gyms, arcades and soft play facilities
    • some communal places within parks, such as playgrounds and outdoor gyms places of worship (except for funerals)
    • hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts, campsites, caravan parks, and boarding houses for commercial/leisure use, excluding use by those who live in them permanently, those who are unable to return home and critical workers where they need to for work
  • Food retailers and food markets, hardware stores, garden centres (from Wednesday 13 May) and certain other retailers can remain open. Other businesses can remain open and their employees can travel to work, where they cannot work from home.
  • The Government is amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, can take place subject to being able to meet the public health principles.
  • Workplaces should follow the new “COVID-19 Secure” guidelines, as set out in the previous chapter, which will be published this week 

2. Face coverings

  • 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.
  • Homemade cloth face-coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances. Face-coverings should not be used by children under the age of two, or those who may find it difficult to manage them correctly, for example primary age children unassisted, or those with respiratory conditions.

3. International travel

  • All international arrivals will be required to supply their contact and accommodation information. They will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS contact tracing app.
  • All international arrivals not on a short list of exemptions to self-isolate in their accommodation for fourteen days on arrival into the UK.
  • Small exemptions to these measures will be in place to provide for continued security of supply into the UK. All journeys within the Common Travel Area (between UK and Ireland) will also be exempt from these measures.
  • These international travel measures will not come into force on 13 May but will be introduced as soon as possible. Further details, and guidance, will be set out shortly, and the measures and list of exemptions will be kept under regular review.

4. Business support

  • As the UK adjusts the current restrictions, the Government will also need to wind down the economic support measures while people are eased back to work
  • The Government will also need to ensure the UK's supply chains are resilient, ensuring the UK has sufficient access to the essential medicines, PPE, testing equipment, vaccines and treatments it needs, even during times of global shortage.(Will come into effect no earlier than Monday 1 June 2020)

 

Step Two (Will come into effect no earlier than Monday 1 June 2020)

  • A phased return for early years settings and schools. The Government expects children to be able to return to early years settings, and for Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 to be back in school in smaller sizes, from this point. Secondary schools and further education colleges should also prepare to begin some face to face contact with Year 10 and 12 pupils.
  • Opening non-essential retail. Further guidance on the approach expected shortly on the approach taken to phasing, including which businesses will be covered in each phase and timeframes involved. All other sectors that are currently closed, including hospitality and personal care, are not able to re-open at this point because of the higher risk of transmission.
  • Re-opening more local public transport in urban areas, subject to strict measures.

 

Step Three (Will come into effect no earlier than 4 Jul 2020)

  • Open at least some of the remaining businesses and premises that have been required to close, including personal care (such as hairdressers and beauty salons), hospitality (such as food service providers, pubs and accommodation), public places (such as places of worship) and leisure facilities (like cinemas).These businesses must meet the COVID-19 Secure guidelines
  • Some venues which are, by design, crowded and where it may prove difficult to enact distancing may still not be able to re-open safely at this point, or may be able to open safely only in part. Nevertheless the Government will wish to open as many businesses and public places as the data and information at the time allows.
  • In order to facilitate the fastest possible re-opening of these types of higher-risk businesses and public places, the Government will carefully phase and pilot re-openings to test their ability to adopt the new COVID-19Secure guidelines.

Guidance for specific types of work. 

The government have produced eight guides to cover a range of different types of work. The guidance also includes links to other materials–such as risk assessments and a COVID secure declaration that you may wish to display in your workplace. You may need to use more than one of these guides as you think through what you need to do to keep people safe:

 

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