FACE-MASKS, working from home, travel quarantine and a whole host of other Covid lockdown rules may have to stay after July 19, a leaked document suggested today.
According to a memo, seen by Politico, Britain may have to have some Covid curbs for months to come as the country learns to live with the virus.
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The PM had previously said he wanted to tear up as many as possible after June 21.
But earlier this week he confirmed that the so-called Freedom Day will be pushed back to July 19 instead, giving four more weeks to get more jabs into arms and protect the nation.
As a result, several reviews on social distancing, face-masks and other Covid rules have been pushed back into the long grass too.
Decisions on whether some restrictions stay in place after July 19 will come before Britain moves into step four.
According to the leaked documents:
- Plastic screens – such as those being used in hairdressers, salons and restaurants – may actually HELP spread Covid
- Ministers are considering bringing in new rules for businesses to keep workplaces better ventilated
- Face masks may have to continue in some settings long-term
- Brits and businesses may be told to decide for themselves whether to work from home or go back to the office in future
- Some form of border controls and isolation may be needed for a significant period to stop new variants from getting into Britain
Cabinet office sources stressed that the document was one of several including multiple options – with nothing signed off by ministers yet or anywhere near being announced.
THE SCREENS DON’T WORK
But they admitted there was “limited evidence” that perspex screens work.
Businesses have spent millions on installing the screens inside offices, pubs and restaurants to try and keep employees safe.
But a snippet of the document, seen by The Sun says that “despite their widespread usage there is no good evidence of effectiveness for any diseases.
“There is some mechanistic evidence that they can block airflows and so my increase risk of airbourne transmission.”
It goes on: “Many screens currently deployed are likely to be ineffective as they are not positioned in a location to provide any benefit.
“There is currently very little consideration of airflows when positioning screens.”
WORK FROM HOME FOREVER?
Despite last year, where ministers were keen to push Brits back to offices, they are now being advised not to give an active advice either way.
Minsters should not actively tell people to return to the office even once most restrictions are lifted, they said.
Civil servants suggest a “hybrid approach” instead, where the Government puts in place measures to help those who don’t need to physically attend work.
It does recommend that the mandatory work from home advice is put in the pin – but says it should be up to businesses and employees what to do.
Last week small business minister Paul Scully suggested that this may be the case.
He told CityAM there was “no clear answer” for whether Brits should flock back to offices or not, adding: “Whenever the work from home message ends, it will be down to what’s best for the business and the worker.”
FACE MASKS MAY STAY
As The Sun revealed last month, ministers were hoping to lift the rules on masks on public transport and in shops.
It was suggested that a possible compromise would be for the public to wear them on public transport but not in other indoor venues.
It’s believed the documents were on a slide of options from the Cabinet Office – and were presented to ministers and top officials at a recent Covid-O meeting.
Earlier today Public Health England’s deputy director, Dr Susan Hopkins, said it may be compulsory to wear them on public transport after July 19.
Dr Hopkins, who is also the chief medical adviser, NHS Test and Trace, said: “This is a balance. In some countries, like Sweden, they have done a lot through social responsibility.
“In other countries they have legislated heavily.
“So I think there is a middle road, as we have vaccination heavily rolled out, that requires potentially, in some areas where there is higher risk, to look at them [NPIs, or restrictions].
“One might consider, for example, transport; for those of us who pack ourselves into the Tube regularly, we may feel more comfortable if everyone else was asked to wear a mask for those very close encounters for potentially periods longer than 15 minutes.”
Insiders said today that it was “too early to say” what the final decisions would be, and nothing was expected before the middle of July.
A government spokesperson said: “We have paused at Step 3 for up to four weeks due to the new Delta variant, and we will continue to assess the latest data on this variant over the coming weeks.”