Alok Sharma says decision to keep sites open is backed by the chief medical officer’s advice

The government has once again told construction to continue with its “critical contribution” to the UK economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

In an open letter to the industry business secretary Alok Sharma (pictured) said the government's advice for work to continue on site was in line with Public Health England (PHE) guidance. 

Alok Sharma

He added: "We know that for many people working in construction their job requires them to travel to their place of work, and they can continue to do so. This is consistent with the chief medical officer’s advice.

"To help ensure that it is safe for you to operate in your workplace, the industry has worked to develop site operating procedures (SOP), which were published by the Construction Leadership Council. These align with the latest guidance from PHE."

He said as the health guidance was updated, the SOP would reflect any changes.

Sharma also said the sector had been instrumental in keeping the economy ticking over during the covid-19 lockdown.

He said: "Our country and our economy needs all our support. And the construction industry has answered the call to action.

"Whether by building temporary hospital wards, installing complex and life-saving oxygen systems, constructing the infrastructure that society needs to function or ensuring that people have safe and healthy homes to live in, you are delivering for our nation through this difficult time"

He said he was in regular contact with industry leaders about the developing situation.

Reacting to the letter, Builders Merchants Federation CEO John Newcomb said: “Alok Sharma’s letter makes it clear that the Government needs the support of the whole construction industry to build temporary hospital wards, construct the infrastructure that society needs to function and ensure that people have safe and healthy homes to live in.

But he emphasized that the industry was "not in a 'business as usual' situation."

“Operations on construction sites and within builders’ merchants and building materials’ manufacturing plants must follow Public Health England guidelines to minimise the risk of transmitting coronavirus and, where people cannot work from home, to provide a safe workplace."

Yesterday, construction minister Nadhim Zahawi gave those firms still working on sites his backing, saying they faced “unfair criticism” from people for keeping sites going.