‘Contamination is rife’: Boris Johnson faces growing pressure to shut building sites as workmen say it’s impossible to stay 6ft apart amid coronavirus crisis – and plumbers and tradesmen are STILL allowed in people’s homes
- PM has faced calls for more stringent rules so workers are not at risk and public transport is not overwhelmed
- Nelson, a self-employed electrician working in East London, warned cross-contamination at the sites is ‘rife’
- Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick urged employers to be ‘sensible’ in their decisions to keep sites open
- It follows the government launching a recruitment drive for 250,000 NHS volunteers to tackle coronavirus
- Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?
Boris Johnson is under growing pressure to stop non-essential construction workers heading to building sites as Britain attempts to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
The Prime Minister has faced calls across the political spectrum for more stringent rules so workers are not placed at risk, and public transport is not overwhelmed.
Mr Johnson, who will appear before MPs today for Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons, has so far resisted the pressure.
But Conservative former cabinet minister Sir Iain Duncan Smith joined the demands for a rethink, after doubts were also raised by Nicola Sturgeon and London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen are still allowed to carry out routine work in people’s homes despite the dramatic lockdown announced on Monday.
Pictures shared on social media today show workers sitting beside one another in a cramped canteen at the Hinkley Point C site in Somerset.
Construction workers on a building in Canary Wharf, London, amid the coronaavirus pandemic. Nelson, a self-employed electrician who works in East London, decided not to go into work this morning over fears of spreading the virus
Construction workers standing in a circle while working on a HS2 site in London this morning. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced people can only leave their homes for essential reasons or may be fined, to reduce the spread of coronavirus
Workers on a construction site in Canary Wharf, London. It follows the government launching a recruitment drive for 250,000 NHS volunteers in good health to help vulnerable people, with Matt Hancock announcing an exhibition centre in London will be converted into a new NHS hospital
Construction workers working on a new development in Liverpool city centre this morning amid increasing calls for non-essential construction work to halt during the coronavirus crisis in the UK
Construction workers walk around Houses of Parliament in London this morning
Woodwharf Canary Wharf, which is one of the biggest construction sites in Europe with thousands of workers, remains open today
Wood Wharf is a 23-acre site in Canary Wharf, London. It is currently under construction to provide offices, residential homes and retail space
Confusion as shop and office workers are told to stay home amid coronavirus lockdown but builders and delivery drivers can carry on
The government has come under pressure to urgently clarify who it counts as a ‘key worker’ after Britons woke up in a state of lockdown confusion.
Last night in his historic address to the nation, Boris Johnson ordered the public to stay at home unless travelling to work was ‘absolutely necessary’.
It was wrapped into an emergency package of draconian measures to keep people indoors to stem the tide of coronavirus infection, which threatens to overwhelm the NHS.
But the wriggle room left by the Prime Minister over exactly who was allowed to travel was seized upon by many workers who continued to commute to their jobs this morning.
Construction workers were seen operating in close proximity, causing head-scratching over why they were continuing to work while most of the country was forced to hunker down at home.
Responding to claims that details of the lockdown were ‘murky’, Michael Gove, the minister for the cabinet office, said: ‘It is the case that construction should continue on sites.
‘People should obviously exercise sensitivity and common sense and follow social distancing measures. But construction sites carried out in the open air can continue’.
And Nicola Sturgeon and Sadiq Khan fanned further confusion when they advised construction workers to stay at home.
Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey said it has closed its construction sites, show homes and sale sites due to coronavirus.
The company said it has a ‘large order-book and quality long-term landbank’ which provides it with increased resilience.
It said UK operations have ‘only been meaningfully impacted in very recent days’ while its smaller Spanish operations have been disrupted by a nationwide shutdown. Earlier on Tuesday, competitor Redrow said its sites remain open with ‘strict precautions in place including enhanced levels of cleaning, additional hygiene facilities and social distancing’.
As Britain started its second day of mass self-isolation today, it also emerged:
- London is on a trajectory for a worse coronavirus outbreak than Lombardy in Italy with deaths doubling every two days and it could run out of intensive care beds by the end of the week;
- Parliament is shutting early tonight ‘until further notice’;
- Coronavirus could have infected as much as half of the population of the United Kingdom, according to researchers at the University of Oxford;
- FTSE 100 opens up 2% by 108 to 5,555 points after record day of trading yesterday as world markets seesaw;
At Hinkley Point, the company has taken certain measures to try to ensure social distancing between workers, including placing plastic bags over every other seat to keep people apart from each other in the canteen.
Nelson, a self-employed electrician who works in East London, decided not to go into work this morning over fears of spreading the virus.
He told BBC’s Today Programme: ‘People know of people who are now in hospital and they’ve called it on site, there seems to be a lot of continued lack of distancing taking place, and obviously the cross-contamination is rife because they’re still going to the canteens, they’re still logging in the mornings with their finger on the keypads.
‘I’m at a bit of a loss of words to be honest and I’m not one who often is at a loss for words. But I’m really not sure where to go from here.
‘Everyone’s position or situation is unique to them. I’ve been having online, and on Whatsapp, ongoing arguments all day today as to why I was on site up until now. And personally, like I said, I need to be earning money, otherwise within a month I’m going to feel the pinch.’
Earlier in the programme, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick urged employers to be ‘sensible’ in their decisions to keep building sites open.
Radio presenter Nick Robinson asked: ‘We take construction workers for example – construction is being stopped in Scotland, the Mayor of London says it should be stopped.
‘We’re seeing photographs, we’re hearing messages from people on building sites up and down the land saying “it’s preposterous to claim I can be two metres away, and even if I can be I’m often holding the same bit of scaffolding or bit of kit without having gloves, without having an ability to wash my hands afterwards, it’s just not happening.”‘
Mr Jenrick replied: ‘Well it depends, there are situations where it is safe to continue to go to work, and the medical advice says that. Public Health England have published further guidance as to how you can operate site, in certain settings, safely.
Boris Johnson tonight announced a lockdown plan to stem the spread of the coronavirus in the UK as he told the nation to stay at home.
People will only be allowed to leave their home for the following ‘very limited’ purposes:
Shopping for basic necessities as infrequently as possible.
One form of exercise a day.
Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.
Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, the PM has announced a ban on:
Meeting with friends.
Meeting with family members you do not live with.
All weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies but excluding funerals.
All gatherings of more than two people in public.
The PM said the police will have the powers to enforce the lockdown measures through fines and dispersing gatherings.
To ensure people comply the government is also:
Closing all shops selling non-essential goods.
Closing all libraries, playground, outdoor gyms and places of worship.
Parks will remain open for exercise, but will be patrolled.
‘There are precautions that you would need to take, some of which will prove too difficult for some site operators to adhere to. That’s why you have seen a number of companies choosing to close down their sites in the last day or two, and I fully support those decisions.
‘Employers need to be sensible, need to take account of Public Health England guidance and make decisions in the best interests of their workers and of wider society, as they would have to with any other health and safety situation.’
Responding to claims that details of the lockdown were ‘murky’, Michael Gove, the minister for the cabinet office, recently said: ‘It is the case that construction should continue on sites.
‘People should obviously exercise sensitivity and common sense and follow social distancing measures. But construction sites carried out in the open air can continue’.
He also confirmed that plumbers could continue to carry out emergency repair jobs so long as they observed the six-feet distancing policy.
Updated guidance from the government today states: ‘Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms.
‘Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a 2 metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.’
The guidance says work should not be carried out in a household that is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless there is a problem that puts them at risk.’
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, said of building sites: ‘My advice would be to close.’
The Mayor of London echoed these sentiments and said: ‘I’ve been concerned about the mixed messages and the lack of clarity.’
He added: ‘The only people that should be leaving home are those that are essential to look after us.
‘In my view the only construction workers that should be working are those that are needed for safety.’
Two construction workers wear face masks and maintain social distancing as they continue work on Battersea Park Road, with one holding up a sign that reads: ‘Stop works’. It comes as Boris Johnson faces calls across the political spectrum for more stringent rules so construction workers are not at risk and public transport is not overwhelmed
Two construction workers at a site on Chester-le-Street, with one operating a digger. The Communities Secretary said this morning that employers need to ‘make decisions in the best interests of their workers and of wider society, as they would with any other health and safety situation’
Workers wearing masks and social distancing on Battersea Park Road in London. Responding to claims that details of the lockdown were ‘murky’, Mr Gove said: ‘It is the case that construction should continue on sites’
A construction worker wears a face mask while continuing work on Battersea Park Road. The government is under intense pressure to set out a financial support package for self-employed workers – measures senior Conservative MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith said were soon to be announced
Boris Johnson’s coronavirus lockdown backed by 93 PER CENT of the public – poll finds
Boris Johnson’s coronavirus lockdown is backed by 93 per cent of Britons, according to a poll today.
But in a potentially worrying sign for the PM, two-thirds believe that the extraordinary curbs will be easy to obey.
The announcement by the PM last night mean that everyone must stay inside unless it is absolutely essential.
Gatherings of more than two people have been banned in the most dramatic restrictions on freedom ever seen in Britain in time of peace or war.
But research by YouGov shows the measures have overwhelming endorsement from the public,
It follows the government launching a recruitment drive for 250,000 NHS volunteers in good health to help vulnerable people, with Matt Hancock announcing an exhibition centre in London will be converted into a new NHS hospital.
The Health Secretary said people are needed to assist with the national effort to tackle coronavirus by shopping, delivering medicines and supporting those who are shielding themselves against Covid-19.
And he confirmed that a temporary hospital – the NHS Nightingale hospital – would be opening at London’s ExCeL centre, with 4,000 beds spread across two wards.
On Tuesday, it was revealed that the number of coronavirus dead in the UK had reached 422 – up from 335 the day before and the largest day-on-day increase in the number of deaths since the outbreak began. Northern Ireland later said there had been a further two deaths in the region.
In measures announced on Monday, the Prime Minister told people to only go to work if ‘absolutely necessary’.
But on Tuesday, Mr Hancock said those who cannot work from home, including key workers in the NHS and social care, should go to work ‘to keep the country running’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured addressing the nation in the White Room at No 10 Downing Street on Monday, during the coronavirus pandemic. He is under growing pressure to stop non-essential construction workers heading to building sites and will appear before MPs for Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons today
The Health Secretary said construction workers were among those who could continue to work as long as they could remain two metres apart at all times.
But some builders and construction workers have said they feel ‘angry and unprotected’ going to work, while others are under pressure from employers to go in.
Mr Duncan Smith added his voice to the calls, telling BBC Two’s Newsnight: ‘So this is the critical question, they need to define exactly what in terms of the construction workers that need to go to work.
‘Let me give you an example, there are such things as emergency construction jobs that need to be done, these people will be, as termed, key workers, because they will be doing something that meant something or stopped something going wrong. Those are critical.
‘The question is general construction and to what degree is it needed, the economy is part of the whole issue, we’ve got to keep this running, but there is a balance.
‘If you ask me for my view on this it is the balance is now where we should delete some of those construction workers from going to work and focus only on the emergency requirements.’
Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, told the programme: ‘This decision about allowing non-essential work appears to be taken for economic reasons when actually – when you’re in the middle of a global pandemic – health reasons alone really should be guiding all decision making.’
London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office said the government must act urgently to get more people staying at home following construction workers reporting to building sites and images of packed Tube trains appearing on social media.
His comments came after Mr Hancock said that the London Underground should be running in full so that people are spaced out and can be further apart.
The government is also under intense pressure to set out a financial support package for self-employed workers – measures senior Conservative MP Sir Iain said were soon to be announced.
‘I believe the government has reached a conclusion about that, the best way to do it is to look back over the average for the year but that does leave out some who haven’t been self-employed for over a year,’ he told Newsnight.
Elsewhere, Mr Hancock said 11,788 recently retired NHS staff had responded to the call to return to the service, including 2,660 doctors, more than 2,500 pharmacists and other staff and 6,147 nurses.
‘I pay tribute to each and every one of those who is returning to the NHS at its hour of need,’ Mr Hancock said.
Some 5,500 final-year medics and 18,700 final-year student nurses will also ‘move to the front line’ next week.
Sadiq Khan defies instruction from Boris Johnson to increase London’s dangerously cramped Tubes and is now threatening to cut services EVEN MORE ‘because a THIRD of TfL staff are off sick’
London Underground tube passengers try to squeeze onto a carriage on the Central Line at White City this morning with services set to become even less frequent, according to underfire Mayor of London Sadiq Khan
Sadiq Khan sparked more fury today and defied Boris Johnson as he warned Tube services will be cut back even further because one in three staff are now off sick – up from one in five overnight – despite dangerous conditions on trains for terrified coronavirus key workers.
The Prime Minister has told the Mayor of London to add more trains but London’s Tube network is packed again with Mr Khan accused of ‘risking lives’ after slashing number of trains at a time of national emergency.
Today one in three of TfL staff are ill or in self-isolation – including large numbers of drivers and customer-facing workers – with the sickness figures appearing to be disproportionately higher than among frontline workers in the NHS, police and fire services. Some have blamed the strength of the Tube unions and their threat to pull away members for the high level of staff absence.
MailOnline can reveal that during rush hour today some London Underground lines are currently only running one train every twenty minutes, when it should be one every three to five minutes, causing more crammed conditions in ‘death trap’ carriages and on heaving platforms.
As deaths in the capital doubled, the Mayor of London is facing mounting fury and pressure to restore services to normal levels with some NHS workers claiming they are now more worried about travelling to work than treating coronavirus patients in hospital.
But in a statement Mayor Khan this morning revealed more train services will go and said: ‘Nearly a third of TfL’s staff are now off sick or self-isolating – including train drivers and crucial control centre staff. Many of them have years of safety-critical training in order to run specific lines – so it is simply not possible to replace them with others. TfL will do everything possible to continue safely running a basic service for key workers, including our amazing NHS staff, but if the number of TfL staff off sick or self-isolating continues to rise – as we sadly expect it will – we will have no choice but to reduce services further.’.
There were grim scenes on the Tube again today where commuters with no choice but to go to work were faced to stand nose-to-nose with strangers on teeming trains.
Key worker Tony Drew tweeted: ‘No-one is listening to you and don’t need to reduce the service as much as you have. You need to get more trains on and stop putting the lives of key workers like me at risk’.
Kate Mat wrote: ‘I have zero respect for Sadiq & TFL! Are they really blind or just heartless??! They are putting key workers life in danger!!!! Nurses, doctors and other key workers can’t practice social distancing on cramped tubes!’
A senior nurse named Danny posted on Twitter: ‘Another busy tube. Can we not stagger people’s start times so we aren’t all squashed on the same tube! This is unsafe and not fair!’, and Barry Trimble, whose work involves ensuring cancer patients receive chemotherapy, posted: ‘The Tube is packed, with social distancing impossible. We need more people to stay at home and more trains running in morning and evening peak.’
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said last night there is ‘no good reason’ Tube services have been slashed and Boris Johnson also questioned why up to three quarters of services had been axed in a call with Mr Khan yesterday,
Commuters have today vented their fury at the lack of trains, with one tweeting Mr Khan this morning with the plea: ‘You are herding key workers into a smaller space. Your decision is a difficult one but is directly risking lives. Please rethink this for our health workers so they can at least feel safe going to work’. Another NHS worker said: ‘Please sort the tubes out, this is risking lives. Emergency workers have to use TFL! Help now’.
Today 500 police officers were deployed at major stations to remind passengers that only those making essential journeys for work should be using the Tube and trains – but huge numbers have no choice but to head to work again today.
MailOnline reader Wayne Alexander, who works for Network
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