Nadhim Zahawi, under-secretary of state for business, has reaffirmed that house-building and other construction work must keep going to help the economy survive the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic.
While Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon and London mayor Sadiq Khan have acted to close down construction sites, the position of the UK government remains firmly that all work that cannot be done from home should continue, on the condition that all workers remain two metres apart and observe all other Public Health coronavirus guidelines.
Nadhim Zahawi writes in The Daily Telegraph today: “The last few weeks have been tough, as infections and deaths due to Covid-19 rise, and as well adjust to the new social rules we must live by. Horrendously, we know the coming weeks will be harder still, before the measures brought in start to take effect and as we travel towards the peak of the virus
“That framework of rules was enacted with a heavy heart; no British prime minister wants to restrict the daily lives of citizens, close businesses or ban gatherings. Every one of us is being forced the learn to live differently, but there is no other option.
“However, we have seen sone, intentionally or otherwise, wrongly interpreting the current rules and unfairly criticising businesses that are implementing the rules correctly.”
He continues: “It has therefore been disappointing that those who feel the need to criticise any and all private sector work have started attacking companies for staying open when their work cannot be done remotely. It does not matter whether they appear on that key worker list, what matters is that they follow the rules out government has set out.
“These businesses need to be defended because we need to minimise the damage to our economy where possible, and be ready to spring back into action as soon as this lockdown is over. There will always be some work that cannot be done from home, whether it is construction or packing boxes in an Amazon warehouse – but we still need houses built and for deliveries to be made. If the scientific view changes, and all of this work becomes too high risk, the government will update its advice. But until then businesses should not be criticised for following the rules.”
He concludes: “These are difficult times for business. We cannot allow those who hate the private sector to use this crisis as an excuse to pile unfair criticism on them. We should stand up for those that are correctly following the rules. They are the same companies we will need to help fund our recovery when we finally get through this.”