New guidance has been issued by Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen in an attempt to clarify who should and shouldn’t go to work in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Ben Houchen’s message in full:
This latest advice from the Government, given by the Prime Minister on Monday (24th March) evening, makes one thing absolutely clear – people should avoid all face-to-face contact unless it is absolutely essential.
This isn’t optional or negotiable, no one is exempt. This advice applies to everyone and it must be followed in order to help protect lives.
This instruction from the Government includes three main parts, all of which must be adhered to.
To ensure that social contact is kept to an absolute minimum, everybody is required to stay at home at all times, except for an extremely limited number of reasons.
The first of these exceptions is shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, yet this must be as infrequent as possible.
People may also leave their home for one form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household and social distancing advice must be followed carefully.
Any medical need, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person is also acceptable with the final exception being travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home and in these cases the two-metre distancing should apply at all times.
It is this final exception that perhaps has the widest scope for interpretation, and I would like to offer some necessary clarity here.
You should NOT go to work if you can work from home.
However, where this is not possible it is essential that the social distancing guidance is adhered to.
I have spoken with one company who could not provide a safe environment in which to work and they have now taken the correct decision to send staff home as they could not operate and follow social distancing guidelines simultaneously. I will continue to raise this with any businesses who chooses not to listen to the expert health advice.
Let me be crystal clear, the new normal is to stay at home and isolate, the exception is leaving your home – not the other way around.
This is the reality now and we must all accept this. This is a national effort that will save lives.
The second section of this new advice is that all non-essential shops must now shut. Last week the Government ordered pubs, bars, cafés and other businesses in the leisure sector to close their doors.
These measures have now been extended to all non-essential shops and police will have the powers to enforce these closures. As part of this effort, closures will also be extended to libraries, community centres, places of worship, hotels, camp-sites and communal places within parks.
Pubs and restaurants may continue to offer a takeaway service and a full list of businesses that are exempt from these measures on the grounds that they offer essential goods and services can be found on the Government’s website.
Finally, from now on, all gatherings of more than two people in public will be banned. The only exceptions to this rule being if you are with your household or where it is necessary for work purposes. But again, in these very few situations, social distancing must be adhered to.
Also, in this guidance regarding gatherings it has been stated that all social gathering and ceremonies, excluding funerals, are not to go ahead. This is simple to understand and will also be enforced by the authorities, please refrain from this behaviour.
I hope this offers some clarification where it was needed but the simple message is: stay inside.
It is a change, it is difficult, but it is not forever.
We owe it to those who are vulnerable in our society to do our bit and follow the Government advice to protect their lives.
People should be left in no doubt about the severity of the threat we face from this deadly virus.
Things will get worse before they get better and unfortunately people are going to die and that is why each and every one of us has a duty to play by the rules and follow the advice.
I urge you all to read the specific guidance on the Government’s website and I will continue to update people as and when I receive new information.
Take care of yourselves and your families and we will come through this together.