Go Back To Work To 'Fire Up' Economy, Michael Gove Urges Public

Change in government advice comes as minister says face coverings in shops "basic good manners" not mandatory.

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People should return to work rather than stay at home in order to “fire up” the coronavirus-hit economy, Michael Gove has said.

The Cabinet Office minister confirmed the default ‘work from home where possible’ advice has changed and Boris Johnson’s government wants more people to go back to their factory, shop floor or office.

Speaking on Sunday, Gove admitted, however, that “in some cases it is appropriate” for people to continue working from home.

It comes as the country is facing a deep and prolonged recession, but also amid fears of a second wave of Covid-19 after Leicester was forced into a local lockdown.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street in London.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove arrives at 10 Downing Street in London.

Gove also refused to back calls to make face coverings in shops mandatory, saying instead they were “basic good manners”.

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday, he said: “We want to see more people back at work, on the shop floor, in the office, wherever they can be.

“Of course in some cases it is appropriate and convenient for people to work from home, but we want to make sure that where people can add value, where the economy can benefit from people being at work, that they are at work.

“We want to make sure that the economic engines of this country are fired up again and that’s why the chancellor made the series of announcements that he made earlier this week in order to make sure that we are in a position to be able to provide people with safety and security at work, to protect their jobs and to guarantee jobs in the future.”

Labour shadow minister Rachel Reeves
Labour shadow minister Rachel Reeves
TOLGA AKMEN via Getty Images

He also said that wearing a face covering “definitely helps you to help others in enclosed space”.

“Face masks are appropriate in some settings and not in others… wearing a face mask when you are out and about outdoors is significantly less necessary than when you are indoors,” he said.

Speaking later on Sunday on the Andrew Marr Show, he said he would encourage people to wear them but that they should not be made mandatory in shops in England.

“I don’t think mandatory, no, but I would encourage people to wear face masks when they are inside, in an environment where they are likely to be mixing with others and where the ventilation may not be as good as it might,” he said.

“I think that it is basic good manners, courtesy and consideration, to wear a face mask if you are, for example, in a shop.

“I trust people’s good sense. Now of course the government at all times does look at the emerging evidence about what the best way to control the disease is.

“If necessary, and if tough measures are required and as we have seen in Leicester, obviously a very different situation, then tough measures will be taken.

“But on the whole… it is always best to trust people’s common sense.”

Labour’s shadow Cabinet Office minister Rachel Reeves, meanwhile, urged the government to introduce stricter rules around face coverings.

Asked if she supported making it mandatory to wear face masks in shops, she told Andrew Marr: “Yes, I think that would be a sensible way forward.

“I think people are increasingly wearing them but I think some greater clarity from government about that, I think, would be helpful.

“People want to do the right thing but they want to know what the right thing is. We already have it on public transport.

“I think it would inspire greater confidence and might encourage more people to go out and spend money if they see more people wearing face masks in shops.”


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