Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged the construction industry to return to work today, although lockdown measures will continue until July at the earliest.
Mr Johnson addressed the nation live on Sunday night to unveil the government’s new guidance on the coronavirus pandemic, and “actively encouraged” those who cannot work from home to return to work.
But Mr Johnson said that construction workers should avoid using public transport to get to build sites if possible.
Workplaces will receive guidance on how to become “Covid secure”, the Prime Minister confirmed, but it is unclear as to when this will be, and what this guidance will contain.
A notable impact of this announcement is that it could help to remove barriers facing those in the midst of, or planning, self build or renovation projects.
(MORE: How is the Covid-19 Pandemic Affecting Building Projects?)
Mr Johnson mentioned construction and manufacturing as examples of the types of industries where getting back to work will be explicitly encouraged.
“We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must. We now need to stress that anyone who can’t work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work.”
“We want it to be safe for you to get to work so you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited.”
No Clear Plan for Safety
Construction was declared an essential service when lockdown was announced on 23 March, but some construction firms closed to protect the safety of its workers and customers.
In the week prior to Mr Johnson’s speech on Sunday, new data released by Housing Today showed that a further 237 sites opened in the week to 6 May, despite lockdown measures.
Construction work has reportedly now restarted on nearly one in five of all residential construction projects, or nearly 600 sites, which were previously closed following lockdown.
This new government announcement illustrates the government’s ambitions for the construction industry to return to a position resembling normalcy, even in these most abnormal times.
But the statement has come under fire from Labour leader Keir Starmer, who says not enough detail has been provided on how construction workers can return to build sites safely.
“The prime minister appears to be effectively telling millions of people to go back to work without a clear plan for safety or clear guidance as to how to get there without using public transport.”
Scotland has banned all non-essential construction, and extended its lockdown measures on Friday. Mr Starmer added: “This statement raises more questions than it answers, and we see the prospect of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland pulling in different directions.”
(MORE: Construction Firms Face Bankruptcy Because of Coronavirus Pandemic)
A 50-page document outlining the government’s easing of the lockdown restrictions is expected to be published on Monday at 2pm.