UK Politics

Coronavirus: PM facing pressure over workers at building sites

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing growing calls to intervene and stop non-essential construction workers heading to building sites as the UK looks to slow the spread of coronavirus.

MPs from across the political spectrum have called for more stringent rules so workers are not put at risk of getting COVID-19 and public transport is not overwhelmed.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove told Sky News on Monday that construction on open air sites can continue but workers should follow "social distancing advice".

Workers face sack if they refuse to go in

However, many builders have pointed out this is almost impossible on construction sites where hundreds of them work together, often having to be in close contact and eating in packed canteens.

Mr Johnson is expected to confront the issue at Prime Minister's Questions later today in the House of Commons.

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Some builders said they feel "angry and unprotected" going to work, while others say employers are pressurising them to come in so they are concerned they will not be paid if they stay at home.

Listed housebuilders Persimmon and Bellway confirmed on Wednesday morning they were beginning a shutdown of their sites.

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Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: "Our members want to do the right thing, but the advice coming from government is anything but clear."

A Cabinet Office spokesman told Sky News those who cannot work from home should go to work if they are feeling well.

He added that the government is expecting employers to ensure employees are social distancing and are able to do so – but added the situation will remain under review.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said the government is seeking 250,000 NHS volunteers to help during the COVID-19 pandemic
Hancock issues call for 250,000 NHS volunteers

On Monday evening, the government announced a recruitment drive for 250,000 volunteers who are in good health and can help vulnerable people.

The NHS has said the volunteers will support the 1.5m vulnerable people who have been asked to "shield" themselves from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock also announced that an east London exhibition centre would made into a field hospital with 4,000 beds to cope with the outbreak.

The efforts to deal with the pandemic came as the UK saw its biggest daily spike in deaths from coronavirus with 89, taking the nationwide total to 424.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the UK now stands at 8,077, up 1,427 from 6,650 on Monday.

The prime minister said people could only go to work if "absolutely necessary" on Monday when he announced new measures.

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