Formal and informal childcare will be exempt from local lockdown restrictions, the Health Secretary has announced as Boris Johnson announces new measures to curb the rise in Covid infections.
The Health Secretary has announced that care arrangements – both formal and informal – will be exempt from local lockdown measures in England.
Matt Hancock said the exemption would apply to children under 14 and vulnerable adults. Informal childcare arrangements must be part of a consistent childcare relationship. The exemption does not include playdates or parties. Local lockdowns now apply in Bolton, Greater Manchester, Leicester, Northampton, North East of England, North West of England, West Midlands and West Yorkshire.
On Tuesday, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said that people in England should work from home if they can, reversing previous a Government push to get people back to the office.
He told the BBC’s Today programme: “We are stressing that if it is safe to work in your workplace, if you are in a Covid-secure workplace, then you should be there if your job requires it. But, if you can work from home you should.”
Boris Johnson repeated that people should work from home if they can when he announced new measures that he said could stay in place for six months. They include all pubs, bars and restaurants in England having to close by 10pm and a doubling of the fine for a first offence of not wearing masks or following rules to £200.
The director-general of the CBI, Carolyn Fairbairn, said the six-month timetable “will come as a shock” to business, adding reversing plans to bring more employees back to offices was a “crushing blow for thousands of firms.” Peter Cheese, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, said: “With home working likely to be the default for another six months, employers must recognise that isolation and anxiety could become an issue for some workers. To counter this, they should ensure managers are regularly checking in with their teams, and are asking about their wellbeing.”
Scotland has banned social contact between households indoors from Friday while up to six people can meet outside from up to two households. Unlike England, where six people from multiple households can meet indoors or outdoors, the six does not include children under 12.
People in Northern Ireland won’t be able to meet anyone who they don’t live with inside their home from Tuesday. In Wales people already have to work from home if they can and people can only meet six people indoors and make sure that those six people are all part of their extended household. Several regions are under local lockdown and under more severe restrictions.
At the weekend the Government said that it will bring in fines starting at £1,000 for people in England who fail to self isolate when asked to, backed by payment of £500 for those on lower incomes who cannot work from home and have lost income as a result.
The fines could increase to up to £10,000 for repeat offences and for the most egregious breaches, including for those preventing others from self-isolating. For example, this could include business owners who threaten self-isolating staff with redundancy if they do not come to work.
The Government says this will be backed with regular contact from NHS Test and Trace call handlers making with those self-isolating, with the ability to escalate any suspicion of non-compliance to Local Authorities and local police; using police resources to check compliance in high risk areas and groups, based on local intelligence; acting on tip-offs from the public and investigating and prosecuting high-profile and egregious cases of non-compliance.
It says just under four million people who are in receipt of benefits in England will be eligible for a payment of £500 to pay for their costs if they self isolate. The payment will be available to those who are required to self-isolate from 28th September.
The Government says it expects self-isolation support schemes to be in place by 12th October and that those forced to self isolate from 28th will receive backdated payments via their local authority.
Meanwhile, the Labour party is expected to urge the Government to subsidise wages for workers to enable businesses to bring them back part time. Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, will speak at the party’s conference to urge the Prime Minister to implement a “job recovery scheme to enable businesses in key sectors to bring back more staff on reduced hours, with government subsidising a proportion of wages for the rest of the working week”. The proposed scheme would work by rewarding employers who give people hours rather than cut jobs.