Speaking on the second day of a police enforced lockdown, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said that builders should continue working if their employer thinks it is safe for them to do so
London Underground carriages remain crowded this morning as the Government tells builders to keep on working despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Yesterday morning photos emerged of great throngs of people stuffed onto the capital’s Tube carriages and platforms, less than 12 hours after Boris Johnson announced a police enforced lockdown.
Only those considered a key worker should travel, the Prime Minister said, with police able to fine those caught flouting the order.
A day later and the trains were still crammed full of people.
Shortly before 7am on Wednesday, a senior nurse named Danny posted on Twitter : “Another busy tube. Can we not stagger people’s start times so we aren’t all squashed on the same tube! This is unsafe and not fair!”
The Central Line was fairly full this morning (Image: Ajad Miah/Twitter)
Barry Trimble, who said his work involves ensuring cancer patients receive chemotherapy, posted: “The Tube is packed, with social distancing impossible. We need more people to stay at home and more trains running in morning and evening peak.”
While some professions, such as doctors and nursers, are clearly categorised as key workers, it is less obvious where others land.
Yesterday construction sites were kept open across the country, despite builders not being mentioned in the Government’s list of key workers.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick insisted it is “sensible” for construction workers to continue to go to work amid the coronavirus crisis if conditions are safe.
Local Government Secretary Robert Jenrick sais some construction workers should keep building (Image: Getty Images)
Informed of one worker being petrified, the Cabinet minister told BBC Breakfast: “If you can work from home you must do so.
“If you can’t work from home then you can go into work but you and your employer should follow Public Health England’s guidance on social distancing and safety precautions.
“In the construction industry in particular a number of employers have concluded that they can’t follow the Public Health England guidance and are choosing to close down their sites – in some cases they are doing so over a short period of time so those sites remain safe and that’s the right thing to do.
“But if you or your employer believes you can continue to operate safely within those guidelines then it’s sensible for you to do so.”
Less than 12 hours after Boris Johnson announced a police enforced shutdown and the Tube platforms were still packed (Image: abb_igotadream/Triangle News)
Passengers were still cramming themselves onto trains this morning (Image: Hannah Forsyth/Twitter)
He urged people to remember that some construction roles are essential, such as safety work and efforts to removal the flammable cladding “of the sort we saw on Grenfell Tower”.
“So there is work that will need to continue if it is safe to do so throughout this crisis,” he said.
Building firm Persimmon confirmed it is starting an “orderly shutdown” of its construction sites.
It said it would continue with essential work only, making partly-built homes safe, where otherwise customers could be left in a vulnerable position.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock (Image: WILL OLIVER/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
The packed carriages have sparked a spat between the Conservative Government and the Labour Mayor of London.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has claimed there is “no good reason” why timetables have been cut to the extent they have.
But Sadiq Khan insisted ministers were told that Tube frequencies reflect high levels of staff sickness and self-isolation.
The Tube is operating at around 50% of its normal capacity during peak times.
Transport for London (TfL) has pledged to “continue to run as much of a Tube service as we possibly can”.
This morning Mr Hancock said: “Transport for London should have the Tube running in full so that people travelling on the Tube are spaced out and can be further apart – obeying the two-metre rule wherever possible.
“And there is no good reason in the information that I’ve seen that the current levels of Tube provision should be as low as they are. We should have more Tube trains running.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (Image: PA)
In response Mr Khan said early data suggested Tube travel was down a third compared to yesterday and bus travel down 20%.
Now both forms have about 10% of the passengers they had this time last year.
However, we still need more Londoners to do the right thing and stay at home,” he said.
“Nearly a third of TfLs staff are now off sick or self-isolating including train drivers and crucial control centre staff. Many of them have years of safety-critical training in order to run specific lines so it is simply not possible to replace them with others.
TfL will do everything possible to continue safely running a basic service for key workers including our amazing NHS staff, but if the number of TfL staff off sick or self-isolating continues to rise as we sadly expect it will we will have no choice but to reduce services further.”
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Mr Khan said measures were being taken to control passenger flow at stations, while 4.5million passengers had been emailed to warn them away from travelling if possible.
He went on: It remains the case that too many of the people using TfL services at the busiest times work in construction.
“I repeat my call on the Government to ban non-safety construction work during this period, as TfL did yesterday.
“We also urgently need more financial support for the self-employed, freelancers and those in insecure work.
“In the absence of Government action, we are working with the Construction Leadership Council to try and spread the start times of work on the biggest sites in London.”
Mr Khan concluded by thanking all members of TfL staff.