Johnson urges people to return to work if they can, contradicting government advice.

Boris Johnson has urged people to go back to work if they can, contradicting his government’s advice that they should work from home if possible. Answering pre-selected questions from the public on Facebook, the British prime minister said he wanted people to feel more confident about going back to offices, restaurants and shops.

“I do want people to start to go to work now if you can, but remember to follow the guidance because that is the way to save lives,” he said.

“I think everybody has sort of taken the ‘stay at home if you can’ – I think we should now say, well, ‘go back to work if you can.’

“Because I think it’s very important that people should try to lead their lives more normally. I want to see more people feeling confident to use the shops, use the restaurants, and get back into work – but only if we all follow the guidance.”

The official government advice, which was updated on Thursday, says people should stay at home as much as possible, and work from home if they can.

“Employers should decide, in consultation with their employees, whether it is viable for them to continue working from home. Where it is decided that workers should come into their place of work then this will need to be reflected in the business’s risk assessment, and actions taken to manage the risks of transmission in line with this guidance,” it says.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said on Thursday that people should use public transport only if no alternative was available, and announcements on the London Underground tell passengers that they should only make essential journeys.

“Throughout the reopening we are seeking to minimise risk, do so in a safe way and open up as much as we can. So we are saying to people it is better to walk or cycle, indeed it is very good for your public health. But if you are not able to do those things, if you are not able to use private transport, cars, then you can use public transport,” he said.

Supermarkets

Mr Johnson also hinted at a toughening of guidance on the wearing of face coverings, which are mandatory on public transport but not in other public places like supermarkets.

He said the government was “looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings in shops, for instance, where there is a risk of transmission”.

The British government confirmed on Friday that it will not take part in a European Union coronavirus vaccine purchase plan aimed at using the member states’ combined purchasing power to pre-order supplies of promising vaccines as cheaply as possible.

In a letter to the European Commission, British ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow said the conditions of participation in the scheme meant Britain would have to stop its own negotiations with suppliers that were in talks with the EU.

“The commission has also confirmed that it is not possible for the UK to have a role in the governance shaping decisions on which manufacturers to negotiate with, or the price, volume and delivery schedule negotiated,” he said.

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