Politics

What Boris Johnson could announce in a big coronavirus update today


Boris Johnson will set out plans to get millions of people back to work and prepare the country for a second wave of Covid-19 this morning, as he returns to the lectern at Downing Street.

Amid growing concern over the economic fall-out from the lockdown, the Prime Minister will publish a blueprint for firms to get workers back to the office.

Mr Johnson will speak in Downing Street from 11am.

Amid increasing concern over the economic fall-out from the lockdown, the Prime Minister is expected to announce a blueprint for firms to get staff back into their workplaces over the next nine months.

The Government will drop advice employees should work from home when they can – and suggest if safety measures are in place, they go into the office.

But Sir Patrick Vallance, the Government’s chief scientific advisor, yesterday told a committee of MPs home-working was an effective method of keeping people distanced from each other.

He said: “It remains a perfectly good option, it’s easy to do. I can see absolutely no reason to change it.” His words put him on collision course with the PM as the country faces an economic crisis.

He will also set out plans to help the NHS weather an expected second wave of the coronavirus this winter – by rebuilding the UK’s stock piles of PPE and stress testing hospitals.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey warned that city-centre economies would be left in tatters if the government did not get people back in the office.

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Councils could also be given powers for lightning lockdowns – making it easier to contain the spread of the virus.

The Prime Minister is expected to speak at around 11am and to be joined at the press conference by ‘test and trace’ chief Dido Harding to help convince businesses that the Government is able to quickly tackle local flare-ups.

Ministers are concerned about the hit to the economy from deserted city centres

Here is what we expect will be announced at the press conference.

What is the prime minister expected to say?

Offices

Mr Johnson will ditch the official advice for employees to work from home, which has been in place since the start of the lockdown in March.

Key workers were exempt, such as frontline NHS and care staff, transport workers and people working in the emergency services.

Firms will now be given more leeway over safety measures so they can get more workers back in.

However, the new advice is likely to stop short of ordering them to return to work.

Instead, it will set out a roadmap of how staff can get back to the office over the next nine months.

Union leaders are likely to sound the alarm over the safety of workers, warning that employees must not be put at risk to prop up struggling high streets.

Public transport

It is unclear when lockdown will lift and what the exact health advice will be once it is over

Mr Johnson is expected to rip up official guidance that tells people to avoid using public transport for all but essential travel.

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Travelling during the morning rush hour is likely to still be advised against, with Brits encouraged to drive, walk and cycle instead during the busy period.

Some rail operators are already removing slogans that advise people against travel. The focus instead will be about travelling off-peak, hand washing and mask use.

Reassuring the public that it is safe to get on buses and trains is seen as key to getting people back to work.

Wearing a face covering on public transport is now mandatory in England – which the government hopes will inspire confidence, as well as preventing the spread of the virus.

Testing

The number of tests is likely to go up

 

Mr Johnson is also expected to confirm plans to increase testing capacity to half a million antigen tests a day by the end of October to bolster the test and trace system.

The Prime Minister will also use a Downing Street press conference on Friday to commit to a new target of reaching the capacity for 500,000 coronavirus tests a day by November.

Flu Jabs

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already announced plans for the “biggest flu vaccination programme in history”, with eligibility for free injections likely to be extended.

We could hear more about how it will be extended and who will be eligible.

NHS

Mr Johnson is also set to announce more funding for the NHS

 

Boris Johnson is set to announce £3bn extra winter funding for the NHS to help prepare for a second wave of the virus and to relieve seasonal pressures on A&E.

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The funding will allow the NHS to continue using additional private hospital capacity and maintain the Nightingale hospitals until the end of March.

In the wake of a dire warning of the consequences of Covid-19 rebounding, Downing Street said the funding will allow extra hospital capacity while allowing routine treatments and procedures to continue.

Lighting lockdowns

Mr Johnson is set to give councils new “lightning lockdown” powers so they can impose shutdowns quicker in the event of coronavirus outbreaks, it is being reported.

The PM’s plan will reportedly allow local authorities to shut pubs and cafés without having to first get the green light from the Government. It could also mean bans on weddings and other large gatherings at short notice.

A Government health source told The Sun : “Councils will be able to impose lighting lockdowns where they see fit.”

Everything else

There is no government guidance on wearing masks in shops. The Prime Minister is under pressure to deliver this with only a week to go until it becomes mandatory to sport a face covering in English stores on July 24.

Mr Johnson also faces questions about the roll-out of local lockdowns, first used in Leicester after a spike in coronavirus cases.

The Government was expected to decide on Thursday whether localised restrictions should continue in the city.

Mr Johnson finally committed to holding an independent inquiry into his government’s botched handling of the pandemic but he has refused so far to offer details on when it would begin.





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