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Business groups and labor unions demand more clarity after UK eases lockdown rules

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out his vision for gradually restarting the economy, calling on people across the United Kingdom to return to work if they cannot do so from home. CNN's Max Foster reports.

Posted: May 11, 2020 11:51 AM
Updated: May 11, 2020 11:51 AM

Groups representing UK business and workers have blasted the government's plans to ease coronavirus lockdown rules, complaining that crucial details on how companies should prepare for a safe return to work are missing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday announced that restrictions on exercise and local travel would be eased after six weeks of lockdown. Workers in some industries, such as construction and manufacturing, are being encouraged to return to their jobs.

"We said that you should work from home if you can, and only go to work if you must. We now need to stress that anyone who can't work from home, for instance those in construction or manufacturing, should be actively encouraged to go to work," Johnson said during a televised address from 10 Downing Street.

The UK government later published further details on which sectors of the economy are allowed to reopen on Wednesday, adding food production, logistics, distribution and scientific research in laboratories. Hospitality and nonessential retail businesses will remain closed, the government said in a 50-page report.

Yet labor unions urged caution, saying many people won't be able to get to work if they also follow the government's recommendation to avoid public transportation.

"Lots of working people will feel anxious and confused after listening to Boris Johnson," Frances O'Grady, general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, wrote on Twitter, noting that the government hasn't published guidance on how workers will be kept safe.

"So how can the [prime minister] — with 12 hours' notice — tell people to go back to sites and factories? It's a recipe for chaos," added O'Grady, whose organization represents 48 trade unions and 5.5 million workers.

Several business lobby groups have also called for clarity from the government on how the revised rules should be applied.

Richard Burge, CEO of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, advised businesses in the British capital to keep their employees at home. "You have not been given sufficient information on how to get your employees safely to work, nor how to keep them safe while they are there," he said in a statement Sunday.

In its report, the government said it would issue new safety guidelines for workplaces and travel later this week. People will be advised to use face coverings in enclosed public spaces, such as on public transportation and in some shops.

Figures from Britain's Office for National Statistics also published on Monday found increased rates of coronavirus-related deaths among men working in low-skilled jobs, including taxi and bus drivers, chefs and sales assistants.

GMB, a union that represents workers in sectors including retail, security and social care, described the figures as "horrifying."

"Ministers must pause any return to work until proper guidelines, advice and enforcement are in place to keep people safe," the union's acting general secretary, John Phillips, said in a statement.

Moves to restart certain industries follow a warning last week from the Bank of England that the UK economy could shrink by 14% in 2020, its worst contraction in 300 years. The government is already paying salaries for more than 6 million workers affected by the shutdown.

In a radio interview with the BBC, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab declined to answer whether employees would be able to refuse to work if they did not feel secure, saying "it's very difficult to answer that hypothetically."

There are also mixed messages coming out of the nations that make up the United Kingdom, adding to the sense of confusion among business and workers.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have extended their lockdowns to May 28 and officials from all three nations said there had been no coordination with the UK government over its new messaging, which advises people to "stay alert" rather than "stay home." Authorities outside England said they would continue to recommend their citizens stay home.

"Businesses will need to see detailed plans for the phased easing of restrictions, coordinated with all nations across the UK and supported by clear guidance," director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall, said in a statement. "It is imperative that companies have detailed advice on what will need to change in the workplace, including clarity on the use of PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]," he added.

— Angela Dewan, Nada Bashir, Max Ramsay, Ivana Kottasova and Charles Riley contributed reporting.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 48524

Reported Deaths: 2698
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11682684
Lake5180242
Elkhart330146
Allen2798132
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Cass16389
Hamilton1563101
Hendricks1410100
Johnson1288118
Porter73237
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Clark65544
Bartholomew58644
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Harrison21822
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Unassigned193193
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Miami1832
Jennings17611
Putnam1698
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Wayne1406
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Perry1299
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Spencer381
Blackford372
Crawford320
Fountain322
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Switzerland270
Parke230
Martin220
Ohio170
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Warren141
Union130
Pike110

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57956

Reported Deaths: 2927
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin10410429
Cuyahoga7883373
Hamilton6019198
Lucas2752302
Marion273438
Pickaway219741
Summit2143206
Montgomery203427
Mahoning1832232
Butler159944
Columbiana130760
Stark1123112
Lorain103567
Trumbull96770
Warren86021
Clark7669
Delaware58215
Fairfield57216
Tuscarawas56710
Belmont54922
Medina52332
Lake50018
Licking49312
Miami46631
Portage44258
Ashtabula43544
Wood42851
Clermont4146
Geauga40742
Wayne36351
Richland3455
Allen32141
Mercer2829
Greene2589
Darke25125
Erie24422
Holmes2363
Huron2202
Madison1978
Ottawa14923
Sandusky13614
Crawford1355
Washington13520
Putnam12815
Ross1273
Hardin12312
Morrow1161
Coshocton1112
Auglaize1074
Monroe8917
Jefferson882
Union861
Muskingum831
Hancock791
Hocking788
Guernsey743
Preble731
Lawrence710
Williams712
Clinton680
Shelby684
Logan621
Fulton610
Ashland591
Athens591
Carroll593
Wyandot596
Brown571
Defiance513
Knox511
Fayette460
Highland451
Scioto410
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Perry351
Van Wert350
Seneca342
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Jackson230
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Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Noble110
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