THE PRIME MINISTER last night announced the third national lockdown in England in an attempt to slow down the spread of the new variant coronavirus.
The news came hours after Nicola Sturgeon announced Scotland would also enter a national lockdown. In Wales, stringent restrictions have operated since early December 2020.
The PM said the decision follows a rapid rise in infections, hospital admissions and case rates across the country because the new variant of COVID-19 is 50-70% more transmissible.
Hospitals are now under more pressure than they have been at any other point during the pandemic with a 30% rise in admissions in the first week of January 2021. Last year’s hospital admissions peak in April has now been topped by 40%.
Construction and trades stay open
It was confirmed by the Prime Minister that the construction industry and tradespeople can once again continue working – as long as they keep protective measures in place.
For construction sites, Version 6 of the Site Operating Procedures should be followed, issued by the Construction Leadership Council. These measures help construction workers to maintain social distance and give guidance on travelling to work. They also detail how construction companies should handle workers becoming ill, self-isolation and outbreaks.
For tradespeople, work can continue, including in people’s homes. However, working in households means tradespeople need to be particularly careful to follow the rules. These are set out in the government guidance ‘Working in Other People’s Homes’. This guidance was last updated on 1 January, and it is worth checking back regularly as the guidance responds to the latest virus developments and scientific advice.
Although the last national lockdown saw work slow, construction industry output has continuously increased since May 2020. Housebuilding has remained particularly robust as buyers seek to take advantage of the stamp duty holiday.
Last summer and autumn have also been very busy with a surge in domestic projects as people use savings made through restricted activities during the year. More time at home has also increased the importance of suitable spaces to work and spend time in.
The construction trades have been hampered by materials shortages, and Brexit changes and the ongoing pandemic mean that availability of materials remains uncertain although there are the first signs that some shortages are easing. The industry should be prepared for significant price rises in the coming months however, as several manufacturers have already warned.
Builders merchants are typically planning to remain open during this lockdown 3 with no merchant or distributors notifying customers of closures as yet. Some merchants are introducing reduced hours or click and collect services to minimise risk to their customers.