Who has to work from home now and how strictly will it be enforced? Office workers are only allowed to go in if it is ‘essential’
- Boris Johnson announced this evening a new national lockdown for England
- The Prime Minister said everyone who can work from home should now do so
- Business chiefs said lockdown is the latest ‘body blow’ suffered by hard hit firms
The Prime Minister used a Downing Street address to the nation to unveil tough new curbs which will last until the middle of February.
Among them was a strict instruction to stay at home, with people only allowed to go outside for one of a handful of specific essential reasons.
People can still travel to go to work but Mr Johnson stressed that exception should only apply to people who ‘absolutely cannot work from home’.
Mr Johnson is urging the nation to stick to the new rules from this evening but business chiefs reacted with anger due to the short notice and because the PM failed to announce any new financial support for firms.
Industry bosses said the latest restrictions represented another ‘body blow’ to struggling businesses.
Boris Johnson tonight announced a new coronavirus lockdown for England, with all workers told to work from home wherever possible
Speaking in Number 10, Mr Johnson said tough new coronavirus curbs are necessary in order to crackdown on a new, more infectious strain of the disease which is spreading across the UK.
He said: ‘With most of the country already under extreme measures, it is clear that we need to do more, together, to bring this new variant under control while our vaccines are rolled out.
‘In England, we must therefore go into a national lockdown which is tough enough to contain this variant.
‘That means the Government is once again instructing you to stay at home.
‘You may only leave home for limited reasons permitted in law, such as to shop for essentials, to work if you absolutely cannot work from home, to exercise, to seek medical assistance such as getting a Covid test, or to escape domestic abuse.’
The Government has already announced that its furlough wage support scheme is being extended to the end of April.
But business leaders immediately said the new lockdown will require more support if firms are to stay afloat.
Adam Marshall, the director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘Businesses will understand why the Prime Minister has felt compelled to act on the spiralling threat to public health, but they will be baffled and disappointed by the fact that he did not announce additional support for affected businesses alongside these new restrictions.
‘The lockdowns announced in England and Scotland today are a body blow to our business communities, hard on the heels of lost trade during the festive season and uncertainty linked to the end of the Brexit transition period.
‘Tens of thousands of firms are already in a precarious position, and now face a period of further hardship and difficulty.
‘Billions have already been spent helping good firms to survive this unprecedented crisis and to save jobs.
‘These businesses must not be allowed to fail now, when the vaccine rollout provides light at the end of this long tunnel.’
The announcement of a new England-wide lockdown immediately prompted calls from business leaders for Rishi Sunak to bring forward a new package of financial support
Richard Burge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, echoed a similar sentiment.
‘The extension of the furlough scheme to the Spring was welcome, but it will remain a cliff edge as we get nearer, as are the end of the VAT and business rate relief periods,’ he said.
‘These must be extended. We also need to see an expansion of the grants programme delivered via councils, based on the number of businesses within a borough, rather than the number of residents.
‘Government needs to understand that this is a London Marathon. You plan for the long-haul, you have feeding and water stations all along the way, and support after the finish line. The Treasury needs to produce their plan for this marathon. At the moment, they are absent on duty and London may fall as a consequence.’