people commuting during coronavirus on the tube


Colin Garner ANTRUK announcements, Coronavirus COVID-19, Learn more

Stronger restrictions by the UK Government are being ignored. This risks the lives of thousands across the country – and particularly in London. The fourth of a series of opinion pieces by Professor Colin Garner DSc on commuting during coronavirus in the UK.

On the 23 March 2020 the UK Government announced that the police now have powers to enforce restrictions on UK citizens leaving their homes for all but the most essential of reasons. These restrictions, although weeks (even months) too late, are – I believe – the best way to curb the spread of COVID-19. They will buy us crucial time to prepare our health service and develop vaccines and/or treatments. This ultimately protects the most vulnerable members of society, who have already been advised to remain at home for three months. It also helps protect every single one of us from this virus, which can kill anyone.

However, across the country and particularly in the city of London, there have been scenes of chaos. These rules are not explicit enough to prevent many people from heading into work. The intentionally ambiguous wording of the exception to the stay-at-home rule around work has led to many believing it does not apply to them, when in fact it should. The guidance says that we cannot leave the house “except to get food, health provisions, exercise (once a day) and for work (where this absolutely cannot be done from home)”. Elsewhere, guidance says employers should tell their employees to work from home ‘wherever possible’.

So which is it? To stay home if at all possible, or to stay home unless you can’t do your work remotely? People with non-essential roles, such as many construction workers, are filling up the now-reduced public transport links. This puts everyone they come into contact with at risk, including key workers such as doctors and nurses. The only construction workers that should be working are those required for essential maintenance to keep the country safe. These include: highway workers, hospital and other health related construction sites, maintaining telecoms, electricity, water and gas etc. Construction of office blocks, hotels and other non-essential buildings at this time should be stopped immediately.

My first article on the topic of COVID-19 explains why this is so important to Antibiotic Research UK. Research suggests that around half of the people in Wuhan who died after being infected with COVID-19 lost their lives due to secondary bacterial infections and sepsis.

Key takeaway: while it sounds like going to work is optional, you should absolutely stay in your house unless your work is of key importance to society. Non-essential building sites can wait; COVID-19 will not.

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