Press Trust of india

UK PM sets out COVID-19 lockdown roadmap with back to work message

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London:  British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday set out his roadmap for further lifting of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions with a back to work message that will give employers “more discretion” to be able to have their employees travelling to office if required from August 1.

The government guidance so far has insisted that people should continue to work from home as far as possible. In a significant next step, the message will now modify to allow employers more freedom to take a decision on their workforce based on individual needs.

“Employers will be given more discretion. That could mean continuing to work from home or it could mean making workplaces safe by following Covid-secure guidelines,” Johnson said at a press conference from Downing Street, when he also unveiled 3 billion pounds in additional funding for the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) to prepare for a dreaded second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

He admitted that it is possible the deadly virus may be “more virulent in the winter months”, saying the government is taking steps to prepare the NHS for such a scenario.

“We are planning for the worst,” said Johnson.

As part of these preparations, the UK prime minister confirmed that the make-shift Nightingale Hospitals will remain in place until at least the end of March 2021 and the country’s antigen coronavirus testing capacity would also be expanded to 500,000 per day or 3.5 million per week, by the end of October.

Johnson hailed the “steady progress” made in fighting coronavirus, with the R-rate or transmission rate staying between 0.7 and 0.9 – below the crucial figure of one – and official death figures on the decline.

“While initially a national lockdown was the right thing to do, now targeted, local action is better,” he said, adding that his timetable remains “conditional and contingent” and that he would not hesitate to “put on the brakes” on the lockdown ease up if the transmission rate starts to go up again.

Under the significant shift in messaging, from Friday the use of public transport is no longer contingent on need and is open to anybody, with the use of compulsory face coverings.

As part of the timetable already set out, gyms, pools and other sporting facilities will be allowed to reopen from July 25.

From the start of August other services including “close contact” work like beauticians will also be able to reopen – but not nightclubs as yet. Wedding receptions for up to 30 people can also take place, as long as they are held in “a COVID-secure way”.

From October, “audiences in stadia”, conferences and other events will be able to assemble, subject to successful pilots.

In reference to socialising among family and friends, Johnson in his COVID-19 roadmap message for the next few months said that his “strong and sincere hope” is that there can be a “more significant return to normality” from November, “possibly in time for Christmas”.

Dido Harding, the NHS chief in charge of the country’s Test and Trace system, joined the UK prime minister at the Downing Street press conference and had a simple message: “if in doubt, get a test”.

“If you come to one of our face-to-face testing centres, you will get results back the next day,” she said.

Britain’s official death toll from the coronavirus stands at more than 45,000, the highest in Europe and the third-highest in the world behind the United States and Brazil.

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