PM Boris Johnson has faced an angry backlash for failing to shut down construction sites, following his order of a three-week nationwide lockdown as part of “social distancing” measures to combat the spread of the deadly virus.
After Johnson’s address to the nation on Monday night, UK Housing Communities and Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick tweeted that construction sites could stay open as long as social distancing was applied.
Advice for the housing, construction & building maintenance industries:🔹If you can work from home, do so.🔹If you are working on site, you can continue to do so. But follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing.🔹Outside of work, remember to #StayHomeSaveLives— Robert Jenrick (@RobertJenrick) March 23, 2020
The buzzword dominating British discourse on tackling the spread of the deadly coronavirus has been “social distancing.”
The UK government has urged the public to adhere to the two-meter rule whenever they come into contact with those outside of their own household. However, the rule doesn’t seem to apply to the construction industry with thousands of workers still commuting to building sites.
The decision to allow construction sites to remain open has left the public and politicians equally unhappy. London Mayor Sadiq Khan told ITV on Tuesday morning that – in his view – construction workers should not be going to work during this government lockdown.
I made that point quite forcefully at yesterday’s COBRA, I made that point quite clearly to the prime minister.
Social media has been flooded with pictures of packed construction sites, much to the fury of many who insist “social distancing” is not being enforced putting other people’s lives at risk – most critically, the doctors and nurses who are struggling to battle the pandemic.
This was yesterday lunchtime at a site in London – it will be the same todayAnd at home time these guys get on the tube with doctors and nurses #shutthesites pic.twitter.com/m5gQBnDm89— STAY HOME & SAVE LIVES 🏴🇮🇪🇬🇧🇪🇺 (@AlanWolfson) March 24, 2020
Building sites are still open across the country…. This is MGT power, construction of a bio mass power station in Middlesbrough this morning. The largest bio mass station in the world with 1700 workers on site. Photo via Simon Duncan, GMB rep in construction. #COVIDー19 pic.twitter.com/ar0ce8zfmB— Dan Dobson (@DanJDobson) March 24, 2020
Images of crowded canteens with employees sitting closely together were posted online. Some on Twitter also suggested that many of these workers will be partly responsible for the overcrowded London tube trains as the underground runs a reduced service.
@piersmorgan @GMB @DrHilaryJones @BorisJohnson this is the canteen at a construction site. Social distancing ??? There are 100s if sites like this all across the UK. They all travel to site in London on public transport ??? pic.twitter.com/3fnyyByFlj— Steve Blundell (@SteveBlundell6) March 24, 2020
@bbclaurak this is my changing room ,and canteen,at a major construction site in south london,yesterday. Shocking mismanagement.Majority of these guys will be coming in from east london on packed central line and buses down to site.#shutthesites #coronavirusuk pic.twitter.com/SGAIrG5PVH— Jason (@estreetjason) March 24, 2020
This is what construction sites across the UK are like, surely it’s not right, decisions need to be made! @BorisJohnson @MartinSLewis pic.twitter.com/q6ugolbtbb— Andrew Davies (@mildred_17) March 24, 2020
Johnson has demanded the populace to stay at home or face getting arrested. “If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce,” the PM warned.
This means no direct contact with friends or family members who do not live in the same home, and only leaving to shop for food “as infrequently as possible,” “one form of exercise” a day, getting medical care, or commuting to and from work if absolutely necessary.
It represents a further shift in London’s response to the crisis away from the initial model of allowing for mass infection to build “herd immunity” and toward trying to “flatten the curve” in order to prevent the healthcare system from collapsing. As of Monday, the UK had registered 6,650 cases of Covid-19, of which 335 have been fatal.
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