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Coronavirus: Working from home rules relaxed among many changes from August 1

Mirror logo Mirror 17/07/2020 Tom Davidson

The Government will update national advice on going to work from August 1 with employers given more leeway on staff returning to offices, factories and other places of work.

Employers in England will have discretion over whether to ask staff to go back to work, Boris Johnson said this morning.

In a statement the Prime Minister announced plans to further relax Covid-19 lockdown measures.

From today public transport will be available to everyone in England - although alternative modes of transport are still encouraged.

And on August 1 bowling alleys, skating rinks, casinos and beauty salons can all reopen, with wedding receptions of up to 30 people also allowed.

Boris Johnson wearing a suit and tie: Boris Johnson wants the UK to return to 'near normal' by Christmas © Provided by Mirror Boris Johnson wants the UK to return to 'near normal' by Christmas

However nightclubs and soft play areas will stay closed. Social distancing measures may be reduced further by November, if the virus continues to shrink.

Mr Johnson said: "Instead of government telling people to work from home, we're going to give employers, more discretion and ask them to make decisions about how their staff who work, safely.

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"That could mean, of course, continuing to work from home which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees.

"Whatever employers decide they should consult closely with their employees, and only ask people to return to their place of work.

"If it is, as we really put our society and economy, it's right that we give employers more discretion."

a crowd of people walking down the street: Certain groups of people are more at risk than others © PA Certain groups of people are more at risk than others

Other sweeping changes announced this morning include:

  • Handing councils powers to shut pubs and cafés without going to Government first through "lightning lockdowns"
  • Giving the NHS an extra £3bn so hospitals are "battle ready" for winter
  • Setting a target of 500,000 antigen tests a day by the end of October
  • Putting a time frame on social distancing so the nation can finally have a hug

Yesterday Sir Patrick Vallance - the Government's Chief Scientific Adviser - told MPs there was "absolutely no reason" to drop working from home.

He said: "Of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it's easy to do.

a man wearing a suit and tie: Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs there was © House of Commons/PA Sir Patrick Vallance told MPs there was

"I think a number of companies think it's actually not detrimental to productivity. And in that situation, there's absolutely no reason I can see to change it."

When asked about this apparently conflicting view, Mr Johnson said it was not for the Government to tell employers if staff should return to their workplaces.

He said: "I totally agree with Patrick Vallance on what he is saying.

"It is not for Government to decide how employers should run their companies and whether they want their work forces in the office or not - that is for companies.

"What we're saying now is that if employers think it would be better and more productive for their employees to come into the office and they can work in a safe way, in a Covid-secure way in the office, then there should be discussions between employers and employees and people should take a decision.

a person wearing a costume: Bosses will decide about reopening offices and factories © Getty Images Bosses will decide about reopening offices and factories

"What we're saying is we want to encourage people that if it is safe to come into work, provided employers have done the work they should have done to make their work places Covid-secure as so many business up and down the country have already done.

"That's what we want to see from August 1."

Speaking today Mr Johnson said he hoped for a "more significant return to normality by November", as he announced further reopening of the economy.

He said: "From August 1, we will reopen most remaining leisure settings, namely bowling, skating rings, casinos and we will enable close contact services, beauticians to resume.

"Nightclubs, soft play areas - sadly - need to remain closed for now, although this will be kept under review.

"We will restart indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sport stadia, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.

Boris Johnson et al. standing in a room: Boris Johnson has pledged that 3.5 million antigen tests will be carried out a week by the end of October © ANDREW PARSONS/DOWNING STREET/HANDOUT/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Boris Johnson has pledged that 3.5 million antigen tests will be carried out a week by the end of October

"We will also allow wedding receptions for up to 30 people."

He added: "It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas."

On the increase in coronavirus testing, the Mr Johnson said: "As we approach winter we will need to go further, not least as many more people will show Covid-like symptoms as a result of seasonal illnesses and therefore require a test."

Mr Johnson added on coronavirus testing: "So, we will further increase testing capacity to at least half-a-million antigen tests a day - 3.5 million antigen tests a week by the end of October."

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