British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out his plan to ease a nationwide coronavirus lockdown next Sunday, media reports said, as new guidance emerged on how to maintain social distancing in workplaces.
Stay-at-home orders imposed in late March are up for review on Thursday in Britain, one of the worst hit countries in the COVID-19 pandemic, but the government has already said the measures will be eased only gradually.
New guidance drawn up with company bosses and trade unions, seen by the BBC and the Financial Times, suggests office workers will be encouraged to stay at home for months to avoid overwhelming the transport system.
But where staff must come in, companies are being urged to stagger shifts, stop people sharing desks or stationery, step up hygiene measures, keep staff canteens shut and restrict the number of people in lifts.
Shop or bank branch workers dealing with customers must be protected by plastic screens, according to the recommendations — although there is no detail on what kind of protective equipment other employees might require.
Britons are currently being told to stay at home unless they need to work, buy essentials or take daily exercise, but they must stay at least two metres away from other people.
Maintaining this social distancing while restarting the economy brings huge problems.
“It won’t work in aviation or any other form of public transport, and the problem is not the plane, it is the lack of space in the airport,” said the chief executive of London’s Heathrow airport, John Holland-Kaye.
“Just one jumbo jet would require a queue a kilometre long,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph.
A total of 28,446 people have now died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Britain, almost on a par with Italy, Europe’s worst affected country.