The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced the initial steps towards an easing of the lockdown restrictions across the country. A variety of key rule changes have been made, although further information and clarity is expected in the coming days. After more than a month of tough measures introduced to control the coronavirus health emergency, we take a look at the key announcements relating to the UK business landscape.
Five tier lockdown system announced
The government plans to introduce a new five tier system, although this will currently only apply to England. The lockdown ranking system features five tiers, with level 5 indicating that the NHS is overwhelmed with the number of coronavirus cases. The goal is to reach level 1, which means that coronavirus is no longer present. It is hoped that a clear scale will help the public understand the strategy behind lockdown and the gradual easing of restrictions. The UK is currently at level 4, with plans to move down to level 3 in the coming days.
Government actively encourages some to return to workplaces
Boris Johnson has announced that those who cannot work from home should be actively encouraged to return to their usual workplace. However, workplaces must be made Covid-secure, with physical distancing and PPE in place. Employees have also been asked to avoid using public transport to commute, with walking and cycling to work encouraged as an alternative.
Although many businesses will cautiously welcome the call for some employees to return to their workplaces, it is clear that reopening businesses will be a long process. For employees to return to workplaces safely there needs to be clear plans in place for transport, testing, PPE and childcare.
However, unions have warned that the announcement lacks clarity, with concerns raised about what particular jobs cannot be done from home. There are concerns that vulnerable people may be forced to return to the workplace, putting many workplaces and employees in a difficult position. There are calls for clear guidance to be published stating exactly how workers will be kept safe if they return to their workplace.
Some businesses to remain closed until at least July
Although some shops will be permitted to reopen from the start of June, the changes do not apply to every business. Instead, a three-stage release of lockdown will be implemented with many businesses unable to open until July at the earliest.
Although takeaways have been encouraged to reopen, this is not the case for cafes, restaurants, pubs, hotels and other businesses which fall into this vast sector. In addition, it was anticipated that garden centres and recycling sites would be permitted to reopen, however no mention of either was made in Boris Johnson’s speech. Many businesses are struggling and with no definite date of reopening in sight, many are concerned about their ability to remain operating once restrictions ease.
Quarantine imposed on people arriving into the UK
Although no specific implementation date has been announced, the prime minister indicated that quarantine measures are likely to be implemented soon. It is expected that the quarantine period will last for 14 days and will apply to everyone arriving into the country by air, with an exception made to those in the freight industry. However, industries such as tourism and aviation have voiced major concerns, stating that a quarantine will dissuade many people from flying.
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