Can manufacturing stay open in lockdown?

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The manufacturing industry in the UK employs an average of 2.7 million people. The sector has grown on average by 1.4 percent every year since 1948 according to a recent ONS report. Prime Minister Boris Johnson implemented a national lockdown in England on January 4 and today the measures legally came into force, with MPs due to vote retrospectively later. But can manufacturing stay open in lockdown?

Mr Johnson instituted a national lockdown in England on Monday, January 4.

The move was made in a bid to tackle the rising rates of coronavirus around the country driven by the new variant which is much more transmissible.

The Prime Minister revealed more than a million people are now infected with Covid-19.

This equates to one in 50 people who now have the virus in England.

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During his announcement about the third lockdown, Mr Johnson said: “I want to say to everyone right across the United Kingdom that I know how tough this is, I know how frustrated you are, I know that you have had more than enough of Government guidance about defeating this virus. But now more than ever, we must pull together.”

The PM added: “The weeks ahead will be the hardest yet but I really do believe that we are entering the last phase of the struggle.

“Because with every jab that goes into our arms, we are tilting the odds against Covid and in favour of the British people.

“And, thanks to the miracle of science, not only is the end in sight and we know exactly how we will get there.

“But for now, I am afraid, you must once again stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

The third lockdown is expected to run from January 4 until at least mid-February.

A specific date for the easing of restrictions has yet to be confirmed.

However, Mr Johnson’s lockdown announcement revealed measures would come to an end “By the middle of February if things go well and with a fair wind in our sails”.

However, on January 5, Cabinet minister Michael Gove contradicted the PM’s assessment suggesting easing could begin from March.

He told Sky News: “We will keep these constantly under review but you are absolutely right, we can’t predict with certainty that we will be able to lift restrictions in the week commencing February 15-22.

“What we will be doing is everything that we can to make sure that as many people as possible are vaccinated so that we can begin to progressively lift restrictions.

“I think it is right to say that as we enter March we should be able to lift some of these restrictions but not necessarily all.”

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Can manufacturing stay open in lockdown?

During the first lockdown implemented in March 2020, regulations permitted members of the manufacturing industry to continue to work, despite pushback from the industry.

A number of sites across the country closed as the industry awaited clearer guidance.

During the current lockdown, manufacturing employees are able to continue working.

Under the new rules, you must remain at home except for the following reasons:

  • To shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • To go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • To exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • To meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • To seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • To attend education or childcare – for those eligible.
  • To attend communal religious worship.
  • To undertake activities related to moving house.
  • The Government’s official guidance reads: “You can only leave home for work purposes where it is unreasonable for you to do your job from home, including but not limited to people who work within critical national infrastructure, construction or manufacturing that require in-person attendance.”

Builders merchants have been classed as an essential retailer which means the manufacturing industry can continue to operate.

However, the Government advises the following measures be implemented in order to ensure people’s safety:

  • Increase in hygiene practices such as handwashing and surface cleaning
  • Using screens or barriers to separate people
  • Observing social distancing
  • Using back-to-back or side-to-side working, rather than face-to-face when possible.
  • Reducing the number of people who have contact with one another.
  • Reduce the number of people on sites and physical interaction for machinery and process operations.
  • Attempt to use remote supervision or observation processes to reduce close physical contact.

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