The government is under growing pressure to halt non-essential construction work as fears escalate about ensuring safety at building sites and preventing the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
Thousands of builders were at work on Tuesday, and worrying images emerged on social media of construction workers travelling to building sites on packed Tube trains.
On Tuesday night, health secretary Matt Hancock reiterated the government’s instruction that builders can continue working, providing they follow Public Health England guidance on social distancing, but added that construction workers are among those who should go to work “to keep the country running”.
London Mayor Saqid Khan responded by saying construction workers should not be working today unless it is for safety reasons, while Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says all building sites should close, unless it involves an essential building such as a hospital.
Boris Johnson will appear before MPs on Wednesday for Prime Minister’s Questions, and will face calls for more stringent rules so construction workers are not placed at risk, and public transport is not overwhelmed.
Mr Johnson is also facing calls to provide a financial support package for self-employed workers, many of whom are builders.
The Confusion Continues
As was the case on Tuesday, many builders woke up this morning uncertain as to whether they should go into work. Construction workers have reported on social media to feeling unsafe, citing that it is often impractical to remain 2m away from colleagues, as per social distancing rules.
After cabinet minister Michael Gove stated on Tuesday that build sites were open, but work should not continue when families are living in the buildings where repairs and maintenance are occurring, many were left confused.
The announcement prompted outcry from organisations such as the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the British Safety Council, as well as thousands of builders who were left unsure which build sites should remain open.
The Construction Leadership Council issued guidance to the construction on Tuesday afternoon, urging employers to use their common sense when managing live projects and ensuring that employees can follow the government’s guidance and practice safe social distancing on site.
Selco Shuts For Three Weeks
On Tuesday morning, several of the UK’s biggest builders merchants revealed they were closing their doors for the day, and no new deliveries would be made.
Some of these merchants have today decided to introduce some delivery measures, but Selco has announced that it will cease trading for three weeks.