In the latest update from Downing Street officials on Wednesday May 6, communities secretary Robert Jenrick said the government will detail how work places from “factories to construction sites to offices… and highstreets and markets… can be managed” to return to operation.
He said: “Our mission is to ensure everything is done to get people back to work safely. That is how we will rebuild and begin to recover from this national emergency… We cannot let this pandemic halt our work.”
Minister Michael Gove and business secretary Alok Sharma have led the drafting of the plans on how different sectors will be able to return to work while obeying social distancing rules.
However, it will remain the case that those who can work from home must continue to do so.
Antiques Trade Gazette’s parent company Auction Technology Group has been lobbying the government to ensure that art and antiques firms such as auction houses can get back to business and contribute to their local economies. This has included a discussion with ministers at the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Further lobbying will take place if Sunday’s announcement does not yield the expected changes.
Documents leaked to website Buzzfeed earlier this week suggested that the government’s plan could include the following:
- Work conducted in other people’s homes - maintain two metre distancing and limit the time spent in proximity to no more than 15 minutes. In other words, consignments and valuations via house visits would be possible.
- For shops: (1) taking into account total floor space and busy areas, the number of customers that can follow two metre distancing should be defined to limit the number of customers in the building at any one time; (2) staggered collection times for customers collecting items - in other words, dealer galleries and auction houses would be able to reopen their premises for business provided they adhere to these and other rules
The announcement on Sunday could lead to a rapid unfurloughing of many staff including in art and antiques businesses.
At this stage, of course, it is possible that the final policies announced may turn out to be different from those leaked earlier and the timing of implementation remains as yet unclear.