Tories Pressure Boris Johnson To End 'Work From Home If Possible' Guidance

PM also faces calls to "declare victory" and end social distancing rules in August if infection rate continues to fall.

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Boris Johnson faces Tory demands to “urgently review” government advice on working from home and social distancing.

The prime minister has all but ended the coronavirus lockdown, with workplaces, shops and pubs able to open provided they stick to “one-metre plus” social distancing.

Ministers also this week encouraged people to return to work “where it is safe to do so” in a bid to restart the economy, but the official guidance still stipulates people should “work from home if you can”.

Now, the PM faces growing calls from his backbenchers to further loosen measures.

Robert Syms, MP for Poole, said if the infection rate continued to fall, Johnson should “declare victory” and end social distancing measures altogether in August.

He told HuffPost UK: “It is almost impossible for schools to operate normally with social distancing so I am presuming it will have to be abandoned in schools in September, also it’s impossible for arts theatres to reopen.

“If the infection rate continues to fall and the death rate drops very low in the next month, I can see no reason why the government could not declare victory.”

He added: “The policy was to flatten the curve then we had tests, so mission creep, and now we have drift.

“There are a lot of colleagues who worry we are tying up the country with regulations when level of risk is very small.”

Senior Tory Graham Brady, the chairman of the 1922 committee of backbench MPs, took the PM to task at prime minister’s questions in the Commons.

MP Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, leaves Downing Street
MP Graham Brady, chair of the Conservative 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, leaves Downing Street

He said: “People are anxious to return to work and some people find that they are as happy and productive at home as they would be at the office but does the prime minister agree with me that the worst reason for staying at home is to follow blanket government advice that takes no account of safety and will he commit to revising the government advice urgently?”

Johnson said it was “important that business should be carried on” and “employers should decide in consultation with their workers” whether it was safe for people to return to the workplace.

The calls come, however, after a major report warned the UK could face as many as 120,000 deaths should the country be gripped by a second spike of the virus this winter.

The study from the Academy of Medical Sciences – which was commissioned by the government’s chief medical advisor Sir Patrick Vallance – said action must be taken now to avoid a second Covid-19 surge.

Labour leader Keir Starmer pressed the PM over what preparations the government was taking for a second wave.

“That report assessed the reasonable worst-case scenario for this autumn and winter including a second Covid spike and seasonal flu and it set out strong recommended actions to mitigate the risks,” he said.

“The report was clear July and August must be a period of intense preparation, ie now. Can the prime minister make clear he intends to implement the recommended actions in this report in full and at speed?”

Johnson replied: “Not only are we getting on with implementing the preparations for a potential new spike, but he will know that the government is engaged in record investments in the NHS.”


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