Category: HM Government

Prime Minister hails resilience of shielders as restrictions set to ease

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Extremely vulnerable people who have been “shielding” in England to be able to spend time outdoors.

  • 2.2 million people shielding in England to be able to spend time outdoors from tomorrow (Monday 1 June)
  • Guidance to be updated to allow interaction outside with their household from tomorrow
  • Unprecedented package of support for those shielding from coronavirus is also set to continue

Extremely vulnerable people who have been “shielding” in England can now safely spend time outdoors, the Communities Secretary will confirm today (Sunday 31 May).

The 2.2 million clinically extremely vulnerable people will be able to go outside with members of their household, while continuing to follow social distancing guidelines.

Those who live alone can meet outside with one other person from another household.

The updated guidance provides a much-needed boost to those most at risk who have been staying inside their homes to protect themselves and the NHS.

This includes many who have not had any face-to-face contact since they were first advised to shield.

The government’s unprecedented package of support for those shielding from coronavirus is also set to continue, including the delivery of food or medicines, phone calls and support from volunteers.

Speaking at the government’s daily press conference later today, the Communities Secretary is expected to set out a plan to review shielding guidance at regular points in the coming weeks.

At each review point for the social distancing measures, we will also assess whether it is possible for the shielding guidance to be eased further, based on the latest scientific advice. The next review will take place later this month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

I want to thank everyone who has followed the shielding guidance – it is because of your patience and sacrifice that thousands of lives have been saved.

I do not underestimate just how difficult it has been for you, staying at home for the last 10 weeks, and I want to pay tribute to your resilience.

I also want to recognise the hundreds of thousands of extraordinary volunteers who have supported you in shielding.

Whether through delivering medicines and shopping, or simply by checking in on those isolating, they should feel deeply proud of the part they have played in this collective effort.

We have been looking at how we can make life easier for our most vulnerable, so today I am happy to confirm that those who are shielding will be able to spend time outside with someone else, observing social distance guidelines.

I will do what I can, in line with the scientific advice, to continue making life easier for you over the coming weeks and months.

Communities Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

Those shielding from coronavirus have made huge sacrifices over recent months to protect both themselves and the NHS – they deserve our thanks and our support for their efforts.

Incidence rates of coronavirus are now significantly lower than before these measures were put in place. That’s why we are focused on finding the right balance between continuing to protect those at the greatest clinical risk, whilst easing restrictions on their daily lives to make the difficult situation more bearable – particularly enabling the contact with loved ones they and we all seek.

We will now be providing regular updates to the shielded to guide them through the next phase and we hope, to better and less restrictive times. In the meantime we will continue to provide the support that the shielded in our communities need.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

The resilience and commitment people have shown throughout this unprecedented period has been nothing short of phenomenal, and none more so than those who have shielded in their homes.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the NHS, GPs, all those who volunteered, community pharmacists and all those involved in providing much-needed support and guidance for patients required to shield over the past 10 weeks.

Thanks to the sacrifices made across the country, which have protected the NHS and saved lives, it’s now time to begin lifting restrictions, step by step, and while we must all stay alert, we can now start to resume a sense of normality.

To date support for those being shielded includes:

  • Over 2.25 million boxes of essential food have now been delivered by wholesalers to those at highest risk across England, with more than 300,000 boxes being distributed every week.
  • Up to 200,000 calls a day have been made to the shielded to confirm their support needs, and councils are helping to support them in other ways – including organising regular calls from volunteers to those isolated.
  • In addition to those delivered by volunteers, there have been over 400,000 free medicine deliveries provided by community pharmacies in April to those who have been advised to shield.
  • Support from an army of over 500,000 NHS volunteers have helped support those shielding as well as others with telephone calls to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.

As the government moves to the next phase of its response to the coronavirus crisis, the latest clinical advice shows a much lower incidence rate in the general population.

This means the average chance of catching the virus is now down from 1/40 to 1/1000, delivering greater reassurance that it is safe to cautiously reflect this in the guidance for those who have been advised to shield.

The importance of following social distancing guidelines for anyone shielding is still paramount, and therefore while outside people who are shielding should remain at a 2-metre distance from others.

Those being shielded still remain at risk and are advised to only leave the house once a day. They should not go to work or the shops and should avoid crowded places where they can’t social distance.

Further information

The updated guidance for those who are shielding will be published on Sunday afternoon in advance of the measures coming into force from Monday.

There are around 2.2 million people in England with underlying severe health conditions who must be protected and have been asked to stay at home. These are people of all ages – with specific medical conditions identified by the NHS – who are less able to fight off the virus. (See the full list of conditions.)

There are a number of ways that those who are shielding can access food and other essentials:

  • Make use of the supermarket priority delivery slots that are available for this group. When a clinically extremely vulnerable person registers online as needing support with food, their data is shared with supermarkets. This means if they make an online order with a supermarket (as both a new or existing customer), they will be eligible for a priority slot.
  • If a person meets the criteria to get support from the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, they can call 0808 196 3646 to be linked with a volunteer who can do a food shop for them. A carer or family member can also do this on their behalf.
  • If you need urgent help and have no other means of support, contact your local authority to find out what support services are available in their area.
  • Use the many commercial options now available for accessing food, including telephone ordering, food box delivery, prepared meal delivery and other non-supermarket food delivery providers. A list has been shared with local authorities and charities.

If someone who is shielding doesn’t need the free government food box anymore, including because they have started to get online supermarket deliveries, they should re-register through the gov.uk website as no longer needing a food delivery. Alternatively, they can inform their delivery driver at the door that you no longer require these food parcels.

People in the shielding group should continue to access the NHS services they need during this time. This may be delivered in a different way or in a different place than they are used to, for example via an online consultation, but if they do need to go to hospital or attend another health facility for planned care, extra planning and protection will be put in place.

An NHS Medicine Delivery Service is available from community pharmacies and dispensing doctors. It ensures the delivery of medicines to shielded patients where family, friends or volunteers cannot collect them.

If a person meets the criteria to get support from the NHS Volunteer Responders programme, they can call 0808 196 3646 to be linked with a volunteer who can help them is a range of different ways. A carer or family member can also call the programme on their behalf.

Mental health support

Follow the advice that works for you in the guidance on how to look after your mental health and wellbeing during coronavirus (COVID-19).

The Every Mind Matters page on anxiety and NHS mental wellbeing audio guides provide further information on how to manage anxiety.

Six people can meet outside under new measures to ease lockdown

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PM Boris Johnson announced groups of up to six people will be able to meet outdoors in England from Monday 1 June, provided strict social distancing guidelines are followed.

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Read the PM’s press conference statement here.

Groups of up to six people will be able to meet outdoors in England from Monday 1 June, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces, provided strict social distancing guidelines are followed.

The Prime Minister announced the change as he set out a carefully-designed package to ease the burdens of lockdown in a way that is expected to keep the R rate down.

Thanks to the public’s continued patience and hard work in helping to protect the NHS and contain the virus, the Prime Minister confirmed that the government’s five tests are being met. This means we can now move forward to the next phase of adjusting the lockdown.

In line with the Prime Minister’s announcements earlier this week, a series of measures will be put in place in England from Monday 1 June in three core areas – schools, retail, and social contact.

Primary schools will welcome back children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 on 1 June, and nurseries and other early years settings will be reopened. On 15 June, secondary schools, sixth forms and colleges will begin to provide some face-to-face contact time for Year 10 and 12 and the equivalent groups in further education. This will help students prepare for exams next year, and we expect there to be around a quarter of these secondary students in at any point.

The Prime Minister has also acknowledged that some schools may not be able to reopen immediately, and has committed the government to continuing to work with the sector to ensure any schools experiencing difficulties are able to open as soon as possible.

Thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres will also begin to reopen in June as we restart the economy.

Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, provided they meet COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. We intend to open all other non-essential retail from 15 June, as long as the government’s five tests are still being met and COVID-19 secure guidelines are followed.

Recognising the impact that lockdown is having on family and friends who have been unable to see each other, the Prime Minister announced today that from 1 June up to six people from different households will be allowed to meet outside, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces.

The evidence shows that the risk of transmission is significantly lower outdoors and this step will mean that people can see more of their friends, family and loved ones.

However, as we take this small step forward, it is critical that those from different households continue to stay 2 metres apart. And it remains the case that people should not spend time inside the homes of their friends and families, other than to access the garden or use the toilet.

Minimising contact with others is still the best way to prevent transmission. The Prime Minister was clear today that people should try to avoid seeing people from too many households in quick succession – so that we can avoid the risk of quick transmission between lots of different families and continue to control the virus. Those who are shielding should continue to do so. The Government recognises the toll this is taking on groups that have been asked to shield and hopes to say more soon on what further support we can provide.

Speaking at today’s Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister said –

Thanks to the caution we have shown so far, all five tests are being met. That is not my achievement or the government’s achievement – it is your achievement, only possible thanks to your resolve and dedication to our national purpose to overcome this virus.

So the result is we can move forward with adjusting the lockdown in England on Monday.

I want to reaffirm that fundamental commitment to the British people that all the steps we have taken, and will take, are conditional.

They are conditional on all the data, and all the scientific advice, and it is that scientific advice which will help us to judge what we are doing is safe.

And as before, we will see how these new changes are working, and look at the R value and the number of new infections before taking any further steps, so we can ensure anything we do does not risk a second peak that could overwhelm the NHS.

The new NHS Test and Trace programme will ensure we keep making progress in easing the lockdown while continuing to keep the virus under control.

The government will closely monitor the impact of the changes set out today and continue to follow the scientific advice to ensure the five tests continue to be met before we take any further steps.

So far, the public have shown high levels of compliance and we are confident that this will continue as restrictions are relaxed, and that people will do the right thing to control the virus and save lives.

The police will continue to take the approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging individuals to follow the law. Where people do not follow the rules, the police will have the power to enforce these requirements as a last resort.

Prime Minister sets out timeline for retail to reopen in June

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Thousands of high street shops, department stores and shopping centres across England are set to reopen next month once they are COVID-19 secure and can show customers will be kept safe, the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confirmed today.

The Prime Minister has set out:

  • Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June, as soon as they are able to meet the COVID-19 secure guidelines to protect shoppers and workers. As with garden centres, the risk of transmission of the virus is lower in these outdoor and more open spaces. Car showrooms often have significant outdoor space and it is generally easier to apply social distancing.
  • All other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics, plus tailors, auction houses, photography studios, and indoor markets, will be expected to be able to reopen from 15 June if the Government’s five tests are met and they follow the COVID-19 secure guidelines, giving them three weeks to prepare.

Shops like supermarkets and pharmacies have been trading responsibly throughout the pandemic. Building on this and in line with the Government’s roadmap, reopening non-essential retail is the next step towards restoring people’s livelihoods, restarting the UK’s economy, and ensuring vital public services like the NHS continue to be funded.

Businesses will only be able to open from these dates once they have completed a risk assessment, in consultation with trade union representatives or workers, and are confident they are managing the risks. They must have taken the necessary steps to become COVID-19 secure in line with the current Health and Safety legislation.

The government is taking action to help businesses re-open and protect their staff and customers, including:

Publishing updated COVID-secure guidelines for people who work in or run shops, branches, and stores, after consultation with businesses, union leaders, Public Health England and the Health and Safety Executive.

Working with local authorities to continue to carry out spot checks and follow up on concerns by members of the public.

The updated guidance takes into account the best practice demonstrated by the many retailers which have been allowed to remain open and have applied social distancing measures in store. Measures that shops should consider include placing a poster in their windows to demonstrate awareness of the guidance and commitment to safety measures, storing returned items for 72 hours before putting them back out on the shop floor, placing protective coverings on large items touched by the public such as beds or sofas, and frequent cleaning of objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, including self-checkouts, trolleys, coffee machines and betting terminals, for example.

The vast majority of businesses will want to do everything possible to protect their staff and customers, but tough powers are in place to enforce action if they don’t, including fines and jail sentences of up to two years.

As per the roadmap, hairdressers, nail bars and beauty salons, and the hospitality sector, remain closed, because the risk of transmission in these environments is higher where long periods of person to person contact is required.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said:

The high street sits at the heart of every community in the country. Enabling these businesses to open will be a critical step on the road to rebuilding our economy, and will support millions of jobs across the UK.

The guidance we have set out today provides a vital framework to get shops open in a way that is safe for everyone. It explains how retail workers who are not currently working can go back to work as safely as possible and feel confident in their workplace. And it reassures customers that shops are properly assessing the risks and putting in place measures to protect them.

Josh Hardie, CBI Deputy Director General, said:

As our high streets slowly reawaken, this new guidance is important for businesses on the ground. Our shops are doing all they can to keep the public and their staff safe, and we’ve seen many retailers leading from the front with innovative solutions to do just that. As more and more businesses turn their attention to reopening, this guidance will help them plan to do so safely and securely.

Andrew Goodacre, CEO, British Independent Retailers Association, said:

Bira is pleased with the guidance being given to retail outlets.

It provides a broad framework for the basic measures and still allows the retailer to be flexible according to the size, layout and location of the shop.

This guidance will ensure that independent retailers provide safe environments for employees and customers.

Prime Ministers Press conference statement 25th May 2020

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement at the daily coronavirus press conference on 25 May 2020.

The Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP

Good evening and welcome to the Number Ten Coronavirus Press Conference

Before I turn to this evening’s announcements, I want to update you on the latest data

  • 3,532,634 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK, including 73,726 tests carried out yesterday;
  • 261,184 people have tested positive, that’s an increase of 1,625 cases since yesterday;
  • 8,834 people are in hospital with COVID-19 in the UK, down (12%) from 10,092 this time last week;

And sadly, of those who tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 36,914 have now died. That’s an increase of 121 fatalities since yesterday. This new figure includes deaths in all settings not just in hospitals.

And once again my deepest condolences go out to all those who have lost their loved ones before their time. We must not, and will not, forget them.

Two weeks ago, I set out our road map for the next phase of our fight against Covid 19

It is a cautious plan, informed by the evidence about what is safe, and conditional upon our continued progress against the virus.

And we are making progress. Thanks to this country’s collective efforts, the key indicators are heading in the right direction. The daily number of deaths is down, the number of new cases is down, our survey evidence suggests the infection rate is falling, and the R has not risen above one.

So just over 2 weeks ago, we moved to step 1 of our plan, encouraging those who are unable to work from home to go back to work, with new guidelines setting out how workplaces can be made COVID-secure.

At the same time, we allowed people to spend more time outdoors and to meet one member of another household outside, provided they remain 2 metres apart.

I also said we would be able to move to step 2 of our plan no earlier than Monday 1 June – a week today.

We will set out our formal assessment of the 5 tests that we set for adjusting the lockdown later this week, as part of the 3 weekly-review we are legally required to undertake by Thursday.

But because of the progress we are making, I can, with confidence, put the British people on notice of the changes we intend to introduce as we move into step 2.

And I think it is important to give that notice, so that people have sufficient time to adjust and get ready before those changes come into effect.

Yesterday I set out our intention to begin reopening nurseries and particular years in primary schools, reception, year 1, year 6, from 1 June, followed by some contact for those secondary school pupils with exams next year from 15 June. Some contact for years 10 and 12 from 15 June with their teachers.

This announcement has given schools, teachers and parents clarity about our intentions, enabling them to prepare in earnest. The Department for Education is now engaging with teaching unions, councils and school leaders to help schools get ready.

Today, I want to give the retail sector notice of our intentions to reopen shops, so they too can get ready.

So I can announce that it is our intention to allow outdoor markets to reopen from June 1, subject to all premises being made COVID-secure, as well as car showrooms, which often have significant outdoor space and where it is generally easier to apply social distancing.

We know that the transmission of the virus is lower outdoors and that it is easier to follow Covid Secure guidelines in open spaces. That means we can also allow outdoor markets to reopen in a safe way that does not risk causing a second wave of the virus.

Then, from 15 June, we intend to allow all other non-essential retail, ranging from department stores to small, independent shops, to reopen. Again, this change will be contingent upon progress against the 5 tests and will only be permitted for those retail premises which are COVID-secure.

Today we are publishing new guidance for the retail sector detailing the measures they should take to meet the necessary social distancing and hygiene standards. Shops now have the time to implement this guidance before they reopen. This will ensure there can be no doubt about what steps they should take.

While the vast majority of businesses will want to do everything possible to protect their staff and customers, I should add that we will, of course, have the powers we need to enforce compliance where that is required.

I want people to be confident they can shop safely, provided they follow the social distancing rules for all premises.

The food retail sector has already responded fantastically well, enabling supermarkets to be kept open in a safe way – and we will learn lessons from that experience as we allow other retail to open.

These are careful but deliberate steps on the road to rebuilding our country.

And we can only take these steps thanks to what we have so far achieved together.

We will only be successful if we all remember the basics – so wash your hands, keep social distance, and isolate if you have symptoms – and get a test.

I will now hand over to Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England, to take us through today’s slides.

Published 25 May 2020

Dogs to the rescue???

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COVID-19 detection dogs trial launches

Trials for specially-trained ‘COVID dogs’ that may be able to detect coronavirus (COVID-19) in humans, even before symptoms appear, are set to begin as part of new research.

A sniffer dog sniffing a sample
  • ‘COVID dogs’ to be trialled as potential non-invasive detection approach for the virus in the future
  • The dogs, who successfully detect certain cancers, will undergo intensive training to see if they can spot coronavirus before symptoms appear
  • Clinical trial backed by half a million pounds of government funding for innovative schemes

Trials for specially-trained ‘COVID dogs’ that may be able to detect coronavirus in humans, even before symptoms appear, are set to begin as part of new research. This will establish whether they could be used as a potential new non-invasive, early warning measure to detect coronavirus in the future.

World-leading researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) will carry out the first phase of a trial in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs and Durham University, backed by £500,000 of government funding. This aims to determine whether dogs are able to detect coronavirus in humans from odour samples.

The trial brings together leading disease control experts from the universities with Medical Detection Dogs, who have already successfully trained dogs to detect the odour of many different diseases in humans, such as cancer, malaria and Parkinson’s disease.

This new trial will look at whether the dogs, a mixture of labradors and cocker spaniels, can be trained to detect coronavirus in people too, even if they are not showing symptoms.

Minister for Innovation Lord Bethell said:

“Bio-detection dogs already detect specific cancers and we believe this innovation might provide speedy results as part of our wider testing strategy.

“Accuracy is essential so this trial will tell us whether ‘COVID dogs’ can reliably detect the virus and stop it spreading.”

If successful, these dogs could provide a fast and non-invasive detection method alongside the government’s robust 5-pillar testing strategy. It is one of a number of testing measures being explored in order to ensure the government’s response to the virus is as extensive as possible.

The initial phase of the trial will see NHS staff in London hospitals collect odour samples from people who are infected with coronavirus and those who are uninfected. The 6 bio detection dogs will then undergo thorough training to identify the virus from the samples.

More than 10 years of research gathered by Medical Detection Dogs has shown that the dogs, which could each screen up to 250 people per hour, can be trained to detect the odour of disease at the equivalent dilution of one teaspoon of sugar in 2 Olympic-sized swimming pools of water.

Professor James Logan, lead researcher for the work and Head of the Department of Disease Control at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said:

Our previous work has shown that malaria has a distinctive odour, and with Medical Detection Dogs, we successfully trained dogs to accurately detect malaria. This, combined with the knowledge that respiratory disease can change body odour, makes us hopeful that the dogs can also detect COVID-19.

I would like to thank the UK government for their support of this pioneering research through this funding. We’re excited to do this trial, and confirm whether these bio detection dogs can be used to screen for COVID-19.

If successful, this approach could revolutionise how we detect the virus, with the potential to screen high numbers of people.

Medical Detection Dogs and the universities put forward a proposal for the clinical trial to the government, which has been accepted following strong evidence that the dogs can detect other diseases in humans with a high level of accuracy.

The dogs will only be deployed if backed by strong scientific evidence and is part of the government’s approach to explore all possible options to tackle coronavirus.

Dr Claire Guest, Co-founder and CEO of Medical Detection Dogs, said:

We are delighted that the government has given us the opportunity to demonstrate that dogs can play a role in the fight against COVID-19. They have the potential to help by quickly screening people, which could be vital in the future

We have already demonstrated our expertise in canine disease detection by successfully training dogs to detect diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s and malaria, and we apply that same science to train life-saving Medical Alert Assistance Dogs to detect odour changes in individuals caused by their health condition.

We are sure our dogs will be able to find the odour of COVID-19 and we will then move into a second phase to test them in live situations, following which we hope to work with other agencies to train more dogs for deployment. We are incredibly proud that a dog’s nose could once again save many lives.

Housing Secretary’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 13 May 2020

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Housing Secretary’s statement on coronavirus (COVID-19): 13 May 2020

The Housing Secretary on the government’s response to COVID-19 and the plan to safely restart, reopen and renew the housing market.

The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP

Good afternoon,

As Housing Secretary, I’m going to set out our comprehensive plan to safely restart, reopen and renew the housing market.

But first, I want to update you on the latest data on the coronavirus response.

  • 2,094,209 tests for coronavirus have now been carried out in the UK, including 87,063 tests carried out yesterday
  • 229,705 people have tested positive, that’s an increase of 3,242 cases since yesterday
  • 11,327 people are in hospital with COVID-19, down 15% from 13,273 last week
  • And sadly, of those tested positive for coronavirus, across all settings, 33,186 have now died. That’s an increase of 494 fatalities since yesterday

These figures includes deaths in all settings not just in hospitals.

Before turning to the housing market I want to remind people of how we will address this phase of our fight against COVID-19.

Firstly, in order to monitor our progress, we are establishing a new COVID Alert Level System, with 5 levels, each relating to the level of threat posed by the virus.

The alert level will be based primarily on the R value and the number of coronavirus cases.

And in turn that alert level will determine the level of social distancing measures in place.

The lower the level the fewer the measures; the higher the level the stricter the measures.

The social distancing measures remain critical in our efforts to control the virus.

Throughout the period of lockdown which started on 23 March we have been at Level 4 – meaning a COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation, and transmission is high or rising exponentially.

Thanks to the hard work and the sacrifices of the British people in this lockdown, we have helped to bring the R level down, now that we are in a position to begin moving to Level 3, we will do so in time, in careful steps.

We have set out the first of 3 steps we will take to carefully modify the measures and gradually ease the lockdown, and begin to allow people to return to their way of life – but crucially doing so while avoiding what would be a disastrous second peak that could overwhelms the NHS.

After each step we will closely monitor the impact of that on the R and the number of infections, and all the available data will be used, and we will only take the next step when we are satisfied that it is completely safe to do so.

The first step – from this week:

  • Those who cannot work from home should now speak to their employer about going back to work.
  • You can now spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like.
  • You can meet one person outside of your household in an outdoor, public place provided you stay 2 metres apart.

The second step – from 1 June , at the earliest, as long as the data allows, we will aim to do the following:

  • Primary schools to reopen for some pupils, in smaller class sizes.
  • Non-essential retail to start to reopen, when and where it is safe to do so.
  • Cultural and sporting events to take place behind closed doors, without crowds.

And then step 3 – no earlier than 4 July, and again, only if the data says it safe to do so, we aim to allow:

  • More businesses and premises to open, including potentially those offering personal care such as leisure facilities, public places, and places of worship.

And on that last point, I have been speaking to faith leaders and will convene later this week a taskforce to establish when and how places of worship can openly safely for some of the practices where social distancing can take place, such as private prayer, potentially private prayer being able to be carried out earlier than 4 July.

Many of these businesses and organisations will need to operate in new ways to ensure they are safe, and we will work with those sectors and individuals on how to do this.

Having taken the first step in carefully adjusting some of the measures and our advice to people on what to do, we have also updated what we are asking people to do, which is to Stay Alert, to Control the Virus and Save Lives.

For many people the appropriate course still means staying at home as much as possible.

But there are a range of other actions we’re advising people to take when they do go out to work or for other activities:

  • limiting contact with other people
  • keeping distance if you go out – 2 metres apart where possible
  • washing your hands regularly
  • wearing a face covering when you are in enclosed spaces where it’s difficult to be socially distant – for example in some shops or on public transport
  • and if you or anyone in your household has symptoms, you all need to self-isolate

If everyone stays alert and follows these rules, we can control coronavirus by keeping the R down and reducing the number of infections.

This is how we can continue to save lives, and livelihoods, as we begin as a nation to recover from coronavirus.

And as we begin to recover from coronavirus, it’s essential that we cautiously open essential parts of our economy, where it is safe to do so.

Earlier today in Parliament, I made a statement setting out our clear, coherent and comprehensive plan to restart, reopen and renew the housing market and our construction industry.

I’m sure that this will be of interest to many people at home who are hoping to move house, and I’d like to set out what this means in more detail.

From today anyone in England can move house if they follow new guidance we have published on GOV.UK.

When the lockdown was announced in March, we changed the rules so that people could only move home if they thought it was “reasonably necessary”.

That meant that more than 450,000 buyers had to put their plans on hold.

And each month 300,000 tenancies come up for renewal as well.

A significant proportion of these will result in people needing to or wanting to move home. The pressure to move for some was becoming acute, with serious legal, financial and health implications.

During an already very difficult time, these people have been stuck in limbo. Now they can carry on with their house moves and add some certainty to their lives.

So, from today:

  • estate agents’ offices can re-open
  • viewings – whether virtual or in person – are permitted
  • show homes can open
  • and removal companies and the other essential parts of the sales and letting process are re-started with immediate effect

For most people moving home is not a luxury. People decide to move home because their personal circumstances change.

The changes that I have announced today are happening safely in order to control the virus and to protect the public.

We have published very detailed guidance, informed by public health advice, to explain how this can be achieved, with all parties observing hygiene measures and social distancing guidelines.

People have asked why they would be able to look around a stranger’s house, but not visit their parents or loved ones at home.

Now I understand why that might seem confusing at first glance – especially when people have been separated from their loved ones for so long.

But our guidelines makes clear that in the first instance that viewings should happen virtually. When viewings do happen in person, we’ve set out a clear plan to ensure the safety of those already in the property itself, those considering moving in and the estate agents and lettings agents.

These requirements include:

  • Visits being by appointment only, open house viewings not taking place, and speculative viewings where buyers or tenants are not serious yet, are highly discouraged.
  • All parties following strict social distancing guidelines.
  • All internal doors should be opened where possible.
  • The current occupier vacating the property for the duration of the visit, going out for their daily exercise, going out to the shops or standing in the garden, if that is possible.
  • All involved in the process washing their hands upon entering the property. And, once the viewing has taken place, all surfaces in the property including the door handles, should be thoroughly cleaned.

There are of course exceptions. For those who are self-isolating or have coronavirus, they should not be moving or going back to work or allowing trades people or professionals into their home.

Where this is the case, all parties involved in house buying or selling should prioritise agreeing amicable sensible arrangements to change move dates for the individuals concerned. That has been happening across the country in recent weeks and it will need to continue.

We would also ask those who are clinically vulnerable and those who are shielding to consider very carefully their personal situation and to seek personal and specific medical advice before deciding whether to commit to or proceed with moving home.

If you are in this situation, and you decide that you must go ahead, all professionals involved must be made aware so that they can put in place any additional precautionary measures to provide further protection for your health and further legal protection to make sure the transaction goes as smoothly as can be expected.

A vibrant housing market means more than buying and selling homes. We need to get back to building again and Britain needs that.

It is something that this government has always been committed to. Something that our ambitious First Homes programme will do later this year, with a 30% discount on new homes for key workers including nurses and teachers and police officers as well as local first time buyers.

We want them to be ready as soon as possible and that’s just one of the reasons I am keen to get construction up and running.

To help with this today I am announcing further steps to support safe house building by allowing more flexible working hours on construction sites, where it’s appropriate and with local consent.

I am allowing sites to apply to extend their working hours, again with immediate effect, to 9pm Monday to Saturday in residential areas and beyond that in non-residential areas, and setting out a very clear government position that these applications should be approved by local councils unless there are very compelling reasons why this is not appropriate.

Varied start and finish times will make it easier for sites to observe social distancing, take the pressure off public transport like the tube in London, and keep Britain building.

There are countless examples of the industry behaving responsibly and proactively during this pandemic.

I’d like to thank today Taylor Wimpey, who now have now got construction safely underway on the majority of their sites and have started removing staff from the furlough scheme and getting back to work on full pay.

They are offering a discount of 5% for NHS staff and care workers on new homes – a great way to recognise the contribution that our front line heroes are making to the country.

So thank you to them.

It’s also time that the planning system makes more use of digital technology to operate remotely and efficiently during this pandemic.

I am determined that the planning inspectorate be at the forefront of this work – I welcome the inspectorate now undertaking its first ever virtual hearings.

I am asking them to make all hearings virtual within weeks so that the planning system can resume and be made more permanently more accessible and user-friendly.

This is the most comprehensive restarting of an industry in the first phase of our roadmap with few if any transactions there is no visibility and no precedent with which to accurately judge the state of the housing market, but history tells us that in each economic recovery in modern British economic life the housing market has been key to recovery and revival.

As Housing Secretary, I will do everything I can to support the millions of people employed in the construction and the housing industries, to help their sector bounce back, while always prioritising their safety and wellbeing.

Almost 100 separate organisations have already signed up to the Charter for Safe Working Practice, pledging that they will share the responsibility to ensure that their sites operate safely and in accordance with government advice.

I’d like to thank all of all of those who have signed and encourage the whole industry to join them.

Today we reopen, we restart and renew the housing market and construction industry to protect lives, to save jobs and to begin rebuilding our economy.

Thank you.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): new transport guidance for passengers and operators

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Coronavirus (COVID-19): new transport guidance for passengers and operators

Announcing new safer travel guidance for members of the public and safer transport guidance for operators.

The Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP

With permission Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement about the new transport guidance for passengers and operators that has been published by my department.

Coronavirus has cast its shadow over the lives of everyone in this country.

As we all know too well, for some it has caused unimaginable heartache. And for many millions of our fellow citizens, this crisis has meant enormous sacrifice in the national effort to beat the disease.

The government is immensely grateful to the British people for the profound changes they have made over the past weeks.

I would also like to extend my thanks to transport workers and the wider sector for their immense efforts to keep Britain on the move during this crisis.

We will always remember the way the industry has served this country during this most challenging of periods. Public transport operators have ensured that all those on the frontline of the fight against the virus can get to work. While freight firms have delivered vital goods and kept supermarket shelves stacked.

However, it is now time to consider how together we will emerge from this crisis.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister set out the first careful steps for reopening society and a roadmap for the weeks and months ahead.

Undoubtedly transport is going to play a central role in that recovery. It will be key to restarting our economy, and in time enable us to renew and strengthen those precious social ties that are so deeply valued by us all.

But as I said last week, our nation’s emergence from this crisis will not be a single leap to freedom. It will be a gradual process.

We cannot jeopardise the progress achieved in the past few weeks by our shared sacrifices.

Therefore, we remain clear that those who can work from home should continue to do so. However, as those who cannot start to return to their jobs, the safety of the public and of transport workers must be paramount.

That is why the Department for Transport has today (12 May 2020) published two new pieces of guidance for passengers and operators.

These documents aim to give passengers the confidence to travel.

And they seek to give operators the information they need to provide safer services and workplaces for passengers and staff.

We encourage operators to consider the particular needs of their customers and workers as they translate these documents into action.

Mr Speaker, the first document is aimed at passengers. I’ll summarise some of the main points contained in this advice.

Firstly, as mentioned, we continue to ask that people only go to work if they cannot do their jobs from home.

That is because, even as transport begins to revert to a full service, the 2 metre social distancing rule will only leave effective capacity for 1 in 10 passengers overall. It is therefore crucial that we protect our network by minimising the pressures placed upon it and ensure it is ready to serve those who need it most.

As a result, we are also asking those who need to make journeys to their place of work or other essential trips to walk or cycle wherever possible.

In order to help more of us to do this, last week I announced an unprecedented £2 billion investment to put walking and cycling at the heart of our transport policy.

The first stage, worth £250 million, will include a series of swift emergency measures, including pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements and cycle and bus only corridors.

This money should help protect our public transport network in the weeks and months ahead. It’s my hope that it will eventually allow us to harness the vast health, social and environmental benefits that active forms of travel provide.

If people cannot walk or cycle but have access to a car, we urge them to use this before considering public transport, avoiding, where possible busy times of day.

I do, however, recognise that for some people using public transport is a necessity. In this case, you should follow the guidance we have set out today to stay safe when using the network.

This recommends that travellers maintain social distancing by staying 2 metres apart, wherever possible, to prevent the spread of the virus.

We also advise that, as a precautionary measure, people consider wearing a face covering when using public transport. This could help protect other travellers from coronavirus where you have unknowingly developed the illness and are not showing any symptoms.

And we urge passengers to avoid rush hours, to use contactless payment, and to wash their hands before and after their journey.

In addition, the guidance also reminds us that, at this most challenging of time, it is more vital than ever that we think of the needs of others.

Our transport operators and their staff are doing all they can to keep everyone safe.

Please follow advice from staff at stations, and at bus interchanges, be patient and be considerate to fellow passengers and staff.

In particular, we should remember the needs of disabled passengers, those with hearing and sight impairments and older travellers.

Mr Speaker, as I mentioned, we’re also publishing a second document, guidance for transport operators. These organisations really are at the forefront of our national recovery efforts.

They know inside out the needs of their customers and their workers, and they understand like no one else, their industries’ own specific challenges.

That is why I have no doubt that operators are best placed to implement the safety processes that work best for their businesses, employees and customers.

The guidance, we are publishing today, advises operators across all forms of private and public transport on the measures they can take to improve safety.

These steps include ensuring stations, services and equipment are regularly cleaned.

Making sure passenger flows are clearly communicated to avoid crowding and try to keep everyone on the network – passengers and staff – 2 metres apart.

This guidance will develop over time, in line with our increasing understanding of how coronavirus is spread and contained.

In addition, it is likely that there will be no one-size-fits-all approach to its implementation, it will need to be tailored into locally based plans that reflect specific needs. In preparation for that process yesterday I wrote to local authorities, to set out how we can work together to prepare the transport network at a local level for restart and ensure public safety.

Mr Speaker, the documents, I have published today, will help ready our transport system to support our country, as we seek to control the virus and restart the economy. We will inevitably encounter obstacles as we embark on this next stage of our national fightback against this disease.

And, there is no doubt that we will need to continue to work together as we overcome these challenges.

On that note, I would like to express my gratitude to our partners in the devolved administrations, local authorities, mayors, trade unions and transport operators for their work over the past weeks. I look forward to our continued collaboration in future.

Because, cooperation is going to be key to setting this country on the road to recovery.

If everyone plays their part, if we continue to stay alert, control the virus and save lives, and if we all follow this guidance when making essential journeys.

I believe we can together harness the power of transport to build a renewed and revitalised nation.

And I commend this statement to the House.

Published 12 May 2020

New guidance published to ensure transport network is safe for those who need to use it

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Guidance for safer travel and safer transport operations during the next phase of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Image of COVID-19 maintain social distance sign.
  • new guidance published on how to make journeys safely
  • public urged to continue to work from home if they can and avoid public transport where possible to reduce pressure on the network
  • those who have to travel for work should consider changing their travel habits – including cycling, walking or driving, and avoiding rush hour – to help people socially distance from others and reduce pressure on public transport

New guidance published today (12 May 2020) provides advice on how passengers should make journeys safely, following the publication of the government’s roadmap and strategy for the next phase of the pandemic. It urges people to consider cycling, walking or driving to help ensure there is enough capacity for those who need to travel on public transport to do so safely.

As the Transport Secretary stated on Saturday (9 May 2020), even as public transport begins to revert to a full service, the 2-metre social distancing rule would only leave effective capacity for one in ten passengers on many parts of the network.

The advice sets out that if people who cannot work from home and have to travel for work, they should first consider alternatives to public transport. Those driving their own cars have been asked to avoid busy areas.

For those who have to use public transport, the guidance for passengers on how to travel safely recommends:

  • keeping 2 metres apart from others wherever possible
  • wearing a face covering if you can
  • using contactless payment where possible
  • avoiding rush hour travel where feasible
  • washing or sanitising your hands as soon as possible before and after travel
  • following advice from staff and being considerate to others

All transport operators have been issued guidance on ensuring stations and services are regularly cleaned, making clear to passengers how to stay 2 metres apart where possible in stations, airports and ports, and to ensure routes for passengers are clearly communicated to avoid crowding. The government’s guidance also sets out steps operators should take to provide safe workplaces and services for their staff and passengers across all modes of private and public transport.

To help reduce pressure on the transport network so there is space for social distancing where possible, the Transport Secretary has spoken to train and bus operators and local authorities to ensure they increase the number of available services over the coming weeks.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

Transport operators and staff have been working hard to ensure that people who need to get to work are able to do so, including crucial NHSworkers and all those on the frontline of the fight against the virus.

Alongside the cycling and walking revolution we are launching, and clear guidance to passengers and operators published today, we can all play our part by following the advice and reducing pressure on public transport.

If we take these steps, all those who need to use public transport should feel confident that they can do so safely, with the space to maintain social distancing as far as possible.

This follows the Transport Secretary announcing a £2 billion package of cycling and walking investment on Saturday that will deliver a green revolution in travel, easing the pressure on public transport services by helping more people than ever choose alternative forms of travel. This included £250 million for local authorities in England to create pop up bike lanes with protected space for cycling, wider pavements, safer junctions, and cycle and bus-only corridors.

The government’s strategy and advice recognises that there will be times and some settings on public transport where social distancing is not possible. The new guidance outlines how people should try to minimise the duration of this, and take all necessary steps to observe these measures where possible.

Opening schools and educational settings to more pupils from 1 June: guidance for parents and carers

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These are very challenging times for our country. Measures put in place to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been hard for us all, but have kept people safe and saved lives. Keeping people safe continues to be the government’s priority.

Since 23 March, in line with the scientific advice, nurseries, schools and colleges have remained open to a priority group of children and young people, children of critical workers and vulnerable children. We have been clear that we would review this arrangement in line with scientific advice. We are now past the peak of the virus and the Prime Minister has set out a recovery strategy, while also ensuring that safety remains our absolute priority. This means it is time to begin the phased return of children and young people to nurseries, schools and colleges in a way that is measured, reduces risks and is guided by science.

Why can more children now attend school and childcare settings?

We want to get all children back into education as soon as the scientific advice allows because it is the best place for them to learn, and because we know it is good for children’s mental wellbeing to have social interactions with other children, carers and teachers.

As a result of the huge efforts everyone has made to adhere to strict social distancing measures, the transmission rate of coronavirus has decreased. We anticipate with further progress that we may be able, from the week commencing 1 June, to welcome back more children to early years, school and further education settings. We will only do this provided that the 5 key tests set by government justify the changes at the time, including that the rate of infection is decreasing and the enabling programmes set out in the recovery strategy are operating effectively. As a result, we are asking schools, colleges and childcare providers to plan on this basis, ahead of confirmation that these tests are met.

What does the latest scientific advice say?

We have been guided by scientific advice at every stage. The latest scientific advice to government is that:

  • there is high scientific confidence that children of all ages have less severe symptoms than adults if they contract coronavirus and there is moderately high scientific confidence that younger children are less likely to become unwell if infected with coronavirus
  • limiting the numbers of children going back to school and college initially then gradually increasing numbers, guided by scientific advice, reduces risk of increasing the rate of transmission
  • schools and other settings can make changes to how they are organised and put measures in place to reduce risks

We have provided advice to schools and other settings on the steps they should consider taking, this includes:

  • limiting the amount of contact between different groups of children (such as smaller class sizes with children and staff spread out more)
  • additional protective measures, such as increased cleaning and encouraging good hand and respiratory hygiene

Can my child return to school?

From the week commencing 1 June, we are asking:

  • nurseries and other early year providers, including childminders, to begin welcoming back all children
  • primary schools to welcome back children in nursery (where they have them), reception, year 1 and year 6
  • secondary schools, sixth form, and further education colleges to begin some face to face support with year 10 and 12 pupils, although we do not expect these pupils to return on a full-time basis at this stage
  • all schools and childcare providers to continue to offer places to the priority groups – vulnerable children and children of critical workers – they have been supporting since the end of March
  • special schools, special post-16 institutions and hospital schools to work towards a phased return of more children and young people without a focus on specific year groups and informed by risk assessments
  • alternative provision to welcome back children in reception, year 1 and year 6 and begin some face to face support with year 10 and 11 pupils (as they have no year 12)

This approach aims to limit numbers within schools and further education settings while ensuring that the children and young people who can benefit from attending most are able to do so.

What if my child is eligible but has siblings who are not?

We are asking that only these year groups return to childcare providers, schools and colleges from 1 June. This does not include siblings in different year groups unless those siblings are in a priority group, for example, the children of critical workers.

We hope that all primary school children can come back to school before the summer holidays, for a month if feasible, although this will be kept under review. Reducing the risks for children and staff is our utmost priority.

How will risks to children, teachers and families be managed?

We have provided guidance and support to schools, colleges and childcare settings on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings to help them to reduce the risk of transmission as more children and young people return.

To prevent the spread of coronavirus, schools and other settings will use a range of protective measures to create safer environments in which the risk of spreading the virus is substantially reduced. Whilst such changes are likely to look different in each setting, as they will depend upon individual circumstances, they are all designed to minimise risks to children, staff and their families.

Schools and other settings should communicate their plans to parents once they have had a chance to work through them in detail. Approaches we are asking schools and other settings to take include:

  • carrying out a risk assessment before opening to more children and young people – the assessment should directly address risks associated with coronavirus so that sensible measures can be put in place to minimise those risks for children, young people and staff
  • making sure that children and young people do not attend if they or a member of their household has symptoms of coronavirus
  • promoting regular hand washing for 20 seconds with running water and soap or use of sanitiser and ensuring good respiratory hygiene by promoting the catch it, bin it, kill it approach
  • cleaning more frequently to get rid of the virus on frequently touched surfaces, such as door handles, handrails, tabletops, play equipment and toys
  • minimising contact through smaller classes or group sizes and altering the environment as much as possible, such as changing the layout of classrooms
  • reducing mixing between groups through timetable changes, such as staggered break times or by introducing staggered drop-off and collection times

If my child is eligible, is it compulsory for them to attend school?

We strongly encourage children and young people in the eligible year groups and priority groups (such as children of critical workers) to attend, as requested by their school or college, unless they are self-isolating or there are other reasons for absence (such as shielding due to health conditions).

You should notify your child’s school or college as normal if your child is unable to attend so that staff are aware and can discuss with you.

Parents will not be fined for non-attendance at this time.

Do all vulnerable children and young people who are not currently attending have to go back to childcare settings, school or college now?

Educational settings should continue to offer places to priority groups. In particular, as per the existing guidance on supporting vulnerable children and young people during the coronavirus outbreak, vulnerable children of all year groups continue to be expected and encouraged to attend educational provision where it is appropriate for them to do so.

For children who have a social worker, attendance is expected unless their social worker decides that they are at less risk at home or in their placement.

For children who have an education health and care (EHC) plan, attendance is expected where it is determined, following a risk assessment, that their needs can be as safely or more safely met in the educational environment.

For children who are deemed otherwise vulnerable, at the school, college or local authority discretion, attendance is expected where this is appropriate.

Should I keep my child at home if they have an underlying health condition or live with someone in a clinically vulnerable group?

Children and young people who are considered extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should continue to shield and should not be expected to attend.

Clinically vulnerable (but not clinically extremely vulnerable) people are those considered to be at a higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. A minority of children will fall into this category, and parents should follow medical advice if their child is in this category.

Children and young people who live in a household with someone who is extremely clinically vulnerable and shielding should only attend if stringent social distancing can be adhered to and the child or young person is able to understand and follow those instructions.

Children and young people who live with someone who is clinically vulnerable (but not extremely clinically vulnerable) as defined in the social distancing guidance and including those who are pregnant, can attend.

Can children be tested for the virus?

Once settings open to more children and young people, staff and pupils in all settings will be eligible for testing if they become ill with coronavirus symptoms, as will members of their household. This will enable children and young people to get back to childcare or education, and their parents or carers to get back to work, if the test proves to be negative.

A positive test will ensure rapid action to protect their classmates and staff in their setting.

What happens if there is a confirmed case of coronavirus in my child’s school, college or childcare setting?

When a child, young person or staff member develops symptoms compatible with coronavirus, they should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 7 days. Their fellow household members should self-isolate for 14 days. All staff and students who are attending an education or childcare setting will have access to a test if they display symptoms of coronavirus.

Where the child, young person or staff member tests positive, the rest of their class/group within their childcare or education setting should be sent home and advised to self-isolate for 14 days. The other household members of that wider class/group do not need to self-isolate unless the child, young person or staff member they live with in that group subsequently develops symptoms.

As part of the national test and trace programme, if other cases are detected within the child or young person’s cohort or in the wider education or childcare setting, Public Health England’s local Health Protection Teams will conduct a rapid investigation and will advise schools and other settings on the most appropriate action to take. In some cases, a larger number of other children and young people may be asked to self-isolate at home as a precautionary measure – perhaps the whole class, site or year group.

Where settings are observing guidance on infection prevention and control, which will reduce risk of transmission, closure of the whole setting will not generally be necessary.

Will education be provided as normal to children and young people who are attending?

Education settings still have the flexibility to provide support and education to children and young people attending school in the way they see fit during this time.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets the standards that schools and childcare settings must meet for the learning, development and care of children from birth to 5 years old. Early years settings should use their best endeavours to deliver the learning and development requirements as far as possible in the current circumstances.

Schools and colleges continue to be best placed to make decisions about how to support and educate their pupils during this period. This will include:

  • consideration of pupils’ mental health and wellbeing
  • assessment of where pupils are in their learning in order to make any necessary adjustments to their curriculum over the coming weeks
  • prioritisation of high needs groups and support for those in transition years

Schools and colleges should use their best endeavours to support pupils attending as well as those remaining at home, making use of the available remote education support.

For pupils in year 10 and 12, we are asking schools and colleges to supplement remote education with some face to face support for these year groups from 1 June. We do not expect these pupils to return to school or college on a full-time basis at this stage, and so we do not expect a full timetable to be offered as schools and colleges look to minimise the number of pupils in school or college each day. Schools and colleges should consider how to best use additional year 10 and 12 time to support those pupils who are starting their final year of study for GCSEs, A levels and other qualifications next academic year.

How should my child travel to and from their childcare, school or college?

Children, young people and parents are encouraged to walk or cycle where possible and avoid public transport at peak times. The government will shortly publish guidance on how to travel safely, which schools, parents and young people can refer to when planning their travel, particularly if public transport is required.

Home to school transport provided or organised by schools, trusts or local authorities varies widely. Schools, trusts and local authorities should work together and with relevant transport providers to put in place arrangements which fit the local circumstances, including the measures being put in place to reduce contact. Further guidance is available on implementing protective measures in education and childcare settings.

Will school meals be available for children and young people who are in school?

Schools should provide meal options for all children who are in school, and meals should be available free of charge where pupils meet the free school meal eligibility criteria. To ensure food is available for pupils who attend, educational settings are expected to reopen their kitchens if they have closed and ensure staff are able to work safely.

We are also continuing to ask schools and colleges to work with their food providers to offer meals or food parcels for benefits-related free school meal pupils not attending school. Now that schools are opening more widely, school catering teams will be better placed to do this. The provision of food vouchers for those eligible under the benefits criteria will also continue to be available where needed for those not attending.

Will childcare, schools and colleges keep their usual opening hours?

It is possible that some settings will make changes to their start and finish times or introduce processes for drop-off and collection times to keep children and families safe.

Start and finish times will be clearly communicated to parents and carers alongside any other new arrangements.

Public advised to cover faces in enclosed spaces

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The public is advised to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces such as shops, trains and buses to help reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Lady in shop wearing face mask
  • People who use public transport or visit shops should consider covering their mouth and nose, based on advice from SAGE
  • Face coverings are not a replacement for social distancing and regular handwashing which remain the most important actions, says Chief Medical Officer
  • Public urged not to buy medical grade masks so they can be saved for frontline health and care workers, but instead make their own face coverings at home

The public is advised to consider wearing face coverings in enclosed public spaces where you may be more likely to come into contact with people you do not normally meet, the government announced today.

After careful consideration of the latest scientific evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the government confirmed face coverings can help reduce the risk of transmission in some circumstances.

Face coverings can help us protect each other and reduce the spread of the disease if you are suffering from coronavirus, but not showing symptoms. People with coronavirus symptoms, as well as members of their household, should continue to follow the advice to self isolate.

They may be beneficial in places where it is hard to follow maintain social distancing measures. This applies when using public transport, such as trains, buses and metro systems, or when visiting shops.

They do not need to be worn outdoors, while exercising, in schools, in workplaces such as offices, and retail, or by those who may find them difficult to wear, such as children under two or primary aged children who cannot use them without assistance, or those who may have problems breathing whilst wearing a face covering.

The public is being strongly urged not to purchase surgical masks or respirators, which are prioritised for healthcare workers working in more high-risk environments where the risk is greatest.

Instead the public is encouraged to make face coverings at home, using scarves or other textile items, which many will already own. Read the guidance on how to wear and make a cloth face covering.

Health Minister Jo Churchill said:

At all times our strategy for keeping the public and the NHS safe during this crisis has been guided by the science.

Today, thanks to the evidence provided by our expert scientists, we are advising people to consider wearing a face covering if they can in enclosed public spaces where social distancing is impossible, for example on public transport or in shops. This may help prevent you spreading the virus to others.

You do not need a clinical mask which are prioritised for our healthcare workers. Instead a face covering is sufficient and we encourage people to make these at home with items they will already own.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer said:

Wearing a face covering is an added precaution, that may have some benefit in reducing the likelihood that a person with the infection passes it on.

The most effective means of preventing the spread of this virus remains following social distancing rules and washing your hands regularly. It does not remove the need to self-isolate if you have symptoms.

COVID-19 can be spread directly by droplets from coughs, sneezes, and speaking. These droplets can also be picked up from surfaces by touch and subsequently from touching the face. That is why hand hygiene is so important in controlling the infection.

Evidence shows a face covering can help in reducing the spread of droplets and therefore potentially infecting others, and could help to reduce the spread of infection as lockdown measures start to be lifted. It is important the public refrains from touching their face covering when wearing it, where possible, to avoid hand to mask transmission of the virus.

Government will not be supplying face coverings centrally as at home items and fabrics readily available on the market can be used, but it is important to wash them after every use.

Research from the WHO showed that where masks were recommended for prolonged periods of time, some wearers failed to maintain good handwashing practices or follow social distancing policies, putting others at risk. As England has demonstrated strong adherence to social distancing, the government is confident face coverings can be recommended as an added precaution in certain environments rather than an essential part of social distancing policies.

For workers in various sectors, or in public transport, the government is advising they continue to follow the advice of their employers and make sensible workplace adjustments. Further guidance on safer workplaces and on transport will be published shortly.

Government has produced guidance for employees and in it they emphasise and reassure employers that for the majority the most effective way they can ensure that their employees are safe at work is to make sensible workplace adjustments, including erecting perspex screens which many supermarkets have already introduced.

Face coverings do not need to be worn in schools.