Scientists want people to keep working from home indefinitely

·2 min read
Scientists are understood to be concerned that progress could be undermined if people return to work in significant numbers - Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images
Scientists are understood to be concerned that progress could be undermined if people return to work in significant numbers - Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Government scientists want people to work from home indefinitely, even though the latest data suggests the roadmap out of Covid lockdown is on track.

The latest figures show infection levels are now the lowest they have been for eight months, with just one in 1,180 people in England having Covid.

Next week, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) is expected to publish more data showing the impact of Britain's vaccine programme, with cases dropping despite the reopening of outdoor hospitality and non-essential shops and the return of schools.

The projections will also examine the impact of the next steps, with sources suggesting any increase in cases is not expected to be on the scale of previous virus waves.

After the roadmap was published, related modelling suggested a full release of restrictions in June could trigger a new wave of hospitalisations as bad as the January peak.

The latest modelling – taking in a slew of data including research showing that one vaccine dose can cut virus transmission by half – is expected to paint a far more positive picture.

But Government scientists are understood to be concerned that progress could be undermined if people return to work in significant numbers, increasing social contact.

They are calling for those who can work from home to continue doing so, saying employers should plan so that staff can stay at home or spend limited time in the office until the threat of the global pandemic recedes. One source said there was no reason to return to an office full-time after June 21 if work could be carried out at home.

Boris Johnson is expected to set out the next stages in the exit from lockdown next week, with people allowed to mix indoors in groups of up to six or two households, and pubs and restaurants allowed to serve indoors from May 17.

Under the current timetable, limits on social distancing will be lifted on June 21, but the Government has yet to set out policies about the return of workers to the office. A decision on whether face masks will be required on public transport has also yet to be taken.

Modelling produced for the Government suggests people will not go back to pre-pandemic levels of contact with others as restrictions lift. Papers released by Sage on Friday show that last August, people were still only at about 50 percent of their pre-pandemic contact levels with other people.

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