TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady has led the criticism of newly-announced guidelines aimed at lifting the Covid-19 lockdown in Britain – claiming they are a 'recipe for confusion’.
In a statement made from Downing Street yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed the tentative steps that would be taken to ease the lockdown restrictions in Britain, if the country continued to keep a hold on the virus.
They included the phased reopening of schools from June 1, beginning with children in Reception and years 1 and 6, and the potential for some shops to open.
Further plans would see some elements of the hospitality sector and other public places reopened by July 1, with social distancing measures in place.
From this week people can now exercise as much as they like, drive to beauty spots to get their exercise and partake in sports such as fishing, golf and tennis - as long as they are enjoyed among their household groups.
You are also allowed to meet one other person from another household outdoors as of this week.
While the relaxation on some of the rules will be a welcome relief for many, there are concerns around the Prime Minister’s additional call for people in certain industries to now return to work.
“This is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week, instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures,” Mr Johnson explained in his statement.
“And the first step is a change of emphasis that we hope that people will act on this week.
“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.”
Mr Johnson went on to call for those who can to walk, cycle or drive to work to avoid using public transport.
However, the TUC's Frances O’Grady has warned the guidelines would be confusing for many and potentially chaotic.
“Lots of working people will feel confused and anxious after listening to Boris Johnson,” the union leader, whose roots lie in Ireland, tweeted this week.
“Government still hasn’t published guidance on how workers will be kept safe. So how can the PM – with 12-hours' notice – tell people to go back to sites and factories? It’s a recipe for chaos,” she added.
In a separate tweet, she said: “Some people are being asked to go back to workplaces….at 12 hours’ notice. What if they have children? Schools and nurseries are closed. What about commuting?
“For many people it’s not possible to get to work without public transport.”
She added: “And what about safety at work? The draft guidelines weren’t good enough, and the revised ones aren’t out yet. So employers don’t know what they must do to keep people safe. A recipe for confusion and anxiety.”
Some people are being asked to go back to workplaces tomorrow. At 12 hours’ notice.
What if they have children? Schools and nurseries are closed. What about commuting? For many people it’s not possible to get to work without public transport. (1/2)
— Frances O'Grady (@FrancesOGrady) May 10, 2020
Ms O’Grady’s sentiments were echoed by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who said the Prime Minister’s return to work call has come without any of the necessary details.
“We haven’t got the guidelines, and we don’t know how it’s going to work with public transport so there’s a huge number of questions arising out of this,” Mr Starmer said.
“Workers were urged not to use public transport where possible, but cars, walking or bikes instead – in advice that will be impossible to follow for many,” he added.
Mr Johnson has also revealed a new Stay Alert, Control The Virus, Save Lives slogan, replacing the Stay Home message of previous weeks.
However, the message is not being adopted in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland – where the call for residents is still to stay at home.