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Get back to your desks or colleagues will gossip about you, Boris Johnson tells stay-at-home workers

No need for ‘Plan B’ return of coronavirus restrictions, says prime minister

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 05 October 2021 08:39 BST
Leading the way, or just a backseat driver? Boris Johnson speaks at a construction site in Manchester on 4 October 2021
Leading the way, or just a backseat driver? Boris Johnson speaks at a construction site in Manchester on 4 October 2021

Workers should get back to their offices or their colleagues will “gossip” about them in their absence, Boris Johnson has said.

The prime minister accepted that he could not guarantee there were be no new flare-up of Covid-19, but said it was “right” to stick to his Plan A of allowing a return to more normal life and said he was “certainly encouraging” people to get back to their workplace.

Current data indicated that there was no need to switch to the Plan B he set out last month, which envisaged the use of vaccine passports, mandatory face-coverings and work-at-home guidance if there was evidence of a spike in coronavirus cases putting pressure on the NHS.

Mr Johnson revealed that cabinet secretary Simon Case had written to civil servants at 10 Downing Street to tell them to get back to their desks, though he admitted that not all had done so.

He also took a swipe at environmentalist protesters who have blocked motorways in a campaign for improved insulation of homes, describing their actions as illegitimate and branding them “irresponsible crusties”. He backed home secretary Priti Patel’s plans for a crackdown, including the threat of six months in prison.

Speaking to LBC radio, Mr Johnson was asked whether his “back to work” message meant he was certain that the coronavirus pandemic was on the way out.

He replied: “We’ve got to be humble in the face of nature and we’ve got to recognise that the disease or a new variant or another pandemic could always hit us.

“But the data I see at the moment is very clear that we are right to stick to Plan A. That means opening up, but always continuing to do sensible things like washing your hands, having ventilation and making sure you’re sensible.

“But we are certainly encouraging people to get back to work in the normal way.

“I think that’s a good thing. I think that, for young people in particular, it is really essential. If you’re going to learn on the job, you can’t just do it on Zoom. You’ve got to be able to come in and know what everyone else is talking about, otherwise you’re going to be gossiped about and you’re going to lose out.

“You need to be there, you need to have the stimulus of exchange and competition.”

Mr Johnson admitted that not all Downing Street staff were back at their desks.

But he added: “The cabinet secretary has written a pretty good letter, quite some weeks ago, to everybody telling them to get back to their desks.”

Asked about Insulate Britain protestors who have been disrupting travel to work, the PM said: “That is insane.

“There are some people who call those individuals legitimate protesters. They’re not. I think they are irresponsible crusties who are trying to stop people going about their day’s work and doing considerable damage to the economy.

“Priti Patel is doing the right thing to bring in powers so that they can get six months or an unlimited fine, or section 60 powers to stop and search the whole area.”

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