On Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the British people that if they could not do their work from home they should return to work at their jobs. He stated, “”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.”
Johnson began by noting:
It is now almost two months since the people of this country began to put up with restrictions on their freedom – your freedom – of a kind that we have never seen before in peace or war. And you have shown the good sense to support those rules overwhelmingly. You have put up with all the hardships of that program of social distancing. Because you understand that as things stand, and as the experience of every other country has shown, it’s the only way to defeat the coronavirus – the most vicious threat this country has faced in my lifetime.
Then he segued to thanking the citizens of his nation, saying, “And though the death toll has been tragic, and the suffering immense, and though we grieve for all those we have lost, it is a fact that by adopting those measures we prevented this country from being engulfed by what could have been a catastrophe in which the reasonable worst case scenario was half a million fatalities.”
Johnson cautioned, “And it is thanks to your effort and sacrifice in stopping the spread of this disease that the death rate is coming down and hospital admissions are coming down. And thanks to you we have protected our NHS and saved many thousands of lives. And so I know – you know – that it would be madness now to throw away that achievement by allowing a second spike. We must stay alert. We must continue to control the virus and save lives.”
Johnson addressed the consequences of the lockdown imposed on the nation: “And yet we must also recognize that this campaign against the virus has come at colossal cost to our way of life. We can see it all around us in the shuttered shops and abandoned businesses and darkened pubs and restaurants. And there are millions of people who are both fearful of this terrible disease, and at the same time also fearful of what this long period of enforced inactivity will do to their livelihoods and their mental and physical wellbeing to their futures and the futures of their children.”
Johnson then turned toward the future, acknowledging that the plan he was about to suggest was a conditional one, and delineating five levels of a new Covid Alert System: Level One, in which the disease was no longer present in the UK through Level Five, where the NHS would be overwhelmed. He explained, “Over the period of the lockdown we have been in Level Four, and it is thanks to your sacrifice we are now in a position to begin to move in steps to Level Three.”
When I look at where we are tonight, we have the R below one, between 0.5 and 0.9 – but potentially only just below one … And so no, this is not the time simply to end the lockdown this week. Instead we are taking the first careful steps to modify our measures. 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. And we want it to be safe for you to get to work. So you should avoid public transport if at all possible – because we must and will maintain social distancing, and capacity will therefore be limited. So work from home if you can, but you should go to work if you can’t work from home … And when you do go to work, if possible do so by car or even better by walking or bicycle. But just as with workplaces, public transport operators will also be following COVID-secure standards.
And from this Wednesday, we want to encourage people to take more and even unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household. You must obey the rules on social distancing and to enforce those rules we will increase the fines for the small minority who break them.
Johnson turned to Step Two: “In step two – at the earliest by June 1 – after half term – we believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.
Johnson continued, “And to prevent re-infection from abroad, I am serving notice that it will soon be the time – with transmission significantly lower – to impose quarantine on people coming into this.”
He concluded, “We will come back from this devilish illness. We will come back to health, and robust health. And though the UK will be changed by this experience, I believe we can be stronger and better than ever before. More resilient, more innovative, more economically dynamic, but also more generous and more sharing.”
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