'Hope for the best, plan for the worst': Boris Johnson scraps government's 'work from home' advice

Local authorities will get more control over locking down their areas as Boris Johnson said the Government would stop telling people to work from home.

Local authorities will get more control over locking down their areas as Boris Johnson said the Government would stop telling people to work from home.

In a further easing of lockdown restrictions across the country, the Prime Minister said from August 1, it will be up to employers whether they believe it is safer for their employees to continue to work from home or they are able to return to the office.

And he said everyone is now free to use public transport, albeit using a mask.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: PA

Mr Johnson said local lockdowns can now be used to control Covid-19 in future, and said the government was "hoping for the best but planning for the worst".

Speaking at a Downing Street press briefing, he said: “At the start of the pandemic, we knew far less about the spread of the virus and we had to take blanket national measures.

“National lockdown was undoubtedly the right thing to do and has saved many thousands of lives.

“Now, however, we know more about the virus, we understand the epidemiology better and our intelligence about where it is spreading is vastly improved.

“That means we can control it through targeted local action instead.”

He said: “From tomorrow, local authorities will have new powers in their areas.

“They will be able to close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events.

“These powers will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount.

“Action by local councils will not always be sufficient, so next week we will publish draft regulations on how central government can intervene more effectively at a local level.

“Where justified by the evidence, ministers will be able to close whole sectors or types of premises in an area, introduce local stay-at-home orders, prevent people entering or leaving defined areas, reduce the size of gatherings beyond the national defined rules or restrict transport systems serving local areas.”

He also announced an extra £3bn for the NHS this winter, in a bid to shore up the health service against an expected second wave of coronavirus.

He said Covid-19 could become “more virulent” in winter and added: “Demand for testing is not the only challenge that winter will bring. It’s possible that the virus will be more virulent in the winter months and it’s certain that the NHS will face the usual annual winter pressures.”

He added: “We’re making sure we’re ready for winter and planning for the worst.

“But even as we plan for the worst I strongly believe we should hope for the best.

“That means looking ahead with optimism, now extending our plan to lift the remaining national measures, which have restricted our lives since March, so we can get back to something closer to normal life.”

Mr Johnson also said advice on going to work would change from August 1.

The move to encourage people back to work is understood to be motivated by a slower than expected return to city and town centre shops, prompting fears for the economy.

Mr Johnson said: “Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely.

“That could mean of course continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees.

“Or it could mean making workplaces safe by following Covid secure guidelines. Whatever employers decide, they should consult closely with their employees, and only ask people to return to their place of work if it is safe.

“As we reopen our society and economy, it’s right that we give employers more discretion while continuing to ensure employees are kept safe.”

But the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said yesterday that there was “no reason to change” the work from home advice.

This was also echoed by the British Medical Association this morning.

Mr Johnson said he hoped for a “more significant return to normality by November”, as he announced further reopening of the economy.

He said: “From August 1, we will reopen most remaining leisure settings, namely bowling, skating rings, casinos and we will enable close contact services, beauticians to resume.

“Nightclubs, soft play areas – sadly – need to remain closed for now, although this will be kept under review.

“We will restart indoor performances to a live audience, subject to the success of pilots, and we will also pilot larger gatherings in venues like sport stadia, with a view to a wider reopening in the autumn.

“We will also allow wedding receptions for up to 30 people.”

He added: “It is my strong and sincere hope that we will be able to review the outstanding restrictions and allow a more significant return to normality from November, at the earliest, possibly in time for Christmas.”