Please Note: All information correct at time of writing on 25 March 2020. We do our very best to make sure our information is as up to date as possible, but we’d encourage you to check out our latest articles and to check the government website for updates as they happen.
Earlier this evening (Wednesday 25 March) Boris Johnson, joined by Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, conducted the daily press briefing. Once again, this was held remotely, with press dialling in via video call to pitch their questions.
His speech was surprisingly brief, highlighting the fact that in just 24 hours, 405,000 people have volunteered to support the NHS. He offered thanks to them all and to everyone in the NHS working so tirelessly at the moment.
The real substance came in the Q&A following the official announcement, in which he was pressed on a number of issues.
Johnson was asked whether the government was coping when some people are being forced to go to work when they don’t feel they are safe. He replied that everyone would get through this together. He added that the Chancellor would be making an announcement tomorrow about a tailored programme to give support to the self-employed. He, therefore, felt they were coping and the most important thing to do was to follow government guidance about staying at home.
He was also asked about whether support for the self-employed was too late for many. He reiterated that it was very difficult to work out the right package to support them but they had done this as quickly as possible.
He was quoted as having said previously that he was not shutting down the whole UK economy, while other countries such as Italy, have introduced a very strict lockdown.
When asked whether he would save more lives if he kept all non-essential workers at home, he replied that the government message was if you can stay at home, you “overwhelmingly should stay at home” and “if it is absolutely necessary for you to go to a place of work” then it is “vital that your employer follows the rules as set out by Public Health England and ensures that you have the protections that you need and the proper rules on social distancing do apply”.
He then passed the question to Chris Whitty who said the modelling they were working to was based on the fact that a lot of people would have to go to work but they really need people to avoid anything discretionary. If people can choose whether they do so or not, they should not do it. He also explained there was an important trade-off because the more onerous the restrictions, the less easy it is to sustain them and these restrictions may be in place for a “reasonably long period of time”.
When challenged on why the UK is so far behind in testing (this is particularly an issue for NHS workers), the PM replied that they were ramping up testing significantly. He also revealed that an antibody test is being tested this week.
In conclusion, the briefing did not give the unequivocal clarity that many were hoping for in terms of which businesses should continue to operate. It definitely seems to remain the case that if employees can’t work from home, they can leave home to go to work.
However, the government considers it vital that employers follow Public Health England’s rules about social distancing. This seems a clear indication that the two-metre distancing provisions are now seen as rules and not guidance.
Given that there does not seem to be any further clarification on the horizon, Citation’s advice is:
The impact of COVID-19 on business owners has been unprecedented. With daily briefings and different measures being introduced on a daily basis, it’s a dizzying time for everyone.
Citation’s Employment Law and Health & Safety experts are here to track the progress of these measures and to translate them into real terms for your business. Keep an eye on our latest articles and free guides, as well as our social media channels for all the latest updates.
If you’re a Citation client, remember you can call our advice line any time on 0345 844 4848.
Not yet a client of ours? Give our friendly team a call on 0345 844 1111 to discuss your business needs. Or, fill your details in the form opposite and we can get back in touch.
GET A FREE CONSULTATION