Jonathan Ashworth has called the coronavirus measures introduced by the government “a bit of a phoney lockdown” because construction and other workers are still “forced to go to work”.
Speaking to Sky News this morning, the Shadow Health Secretary called for the government to implement “clear and unambiguous instructions that only key essential key workers should be in the workplace”.
He added: “People are putting not only themselves at risk. People are going to work who may have the virus and not know about it… or they may have the virus but they’ve got no choice but to go to work.”
"It is a bit of a phoney lockdown"
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 26, 2020
Ashworth’s comments followed a parliamentary speech given by John McDonnell yesterday, in which he said: “Because of the inconsistencies of the interpretation of the lockdown, we seem to be in a phoney lockdown.”
As it stands, self-employed workers have been instructed to apply for Universal Credit if unable to work. This is payable at the rate of statutory sick pay and leaves nearly five million workers to survive on £94.25 per week.
In contrast, the government’s income compensation scheme for employees announced last week enables employers to claim support for up to 80% of their wages.
Labour has called for the government to urgently provide greater support for self-employed workers. Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue at his final Prime Minister’s Questions as leader, but the government has yet to make any further commitment.
There are currently 9,529 recorded cases of coronavirus in the UK. The highest number by a large margin have been found in the capital, where there are 3,247 cases. 422 UK residents have died of the disease.