Coronavirus: Bosses say PM fails to allay confusion over face masks for workers - Sky News

Coronavirus: Bosses say PM fails to allay confusion over face masks for workers - Sky News

Bosses of major companies said on Sunday that the prime minister had left them in the dark about whether they would be required to provide face coverings to employees returning to work during the coronavirus pandemic.

Sky News has spoken to a number of chief executives who say they were left "bemused" by a lack of clarity from Boris Johnson over several elements of the government's plan to ease the UK lockdown.

One of those present on a call with Mr Johnson following his statement on Sunday evening said he had described face masks as being "of small use" in restricting infections, but had said their use would not be made mandatory.

Prime minister Boris Johnson says he 'actively encouraged' those who cannot work from home to go to work
'Go to work if you can't work from home'

The lack of clarity over the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been among the biggest points of contention for the private sector since draft guidelines were published a week ago.

"The messaging from the PM was unclear, to say the least," the person said.

"This is a time when employers need clarity in order to reassure staff, but there was none."

Mr Johnson is understood to have been candid about the risks of not meeting the targets for easing lockdown restrictions outlined in his public broadcast.

One corporate chief said the PM had used the call to highlight the need to solve Britain's productivity challenges and tackle the "innovation gap" in the UK economy.

"He signalled that the priorities would be to invest in technology, infrastructure and education," the executive said.

'Some of the detail causes real concern'

Challenged about the restrictions on public transport capacity, and the problems that would pose to companies asking their employees to return to work this week, the PM is understood to have made a joke about Transport for London being better-run during his tenure as the city's mayor than under Sadiq Khan, his successor.

One of those on the call said Mr Johnson was asked about mental health problems exacerbated or caused by the pandemic, by the BP chief executive, Bernard Looney, and that he also spoke about his understanding of any link between the severity of COVID-19's impact and patient obesity.

The chief executives of GlaxoSmithKline and Tesco also asked Mr Johnson questions during the call, alongside executives from Google and the Federation of Small Businesses.

Alok Sharma, the business secretary, also spoke on the call.

Downing Street said it would not be providing a readout of the PM's discussion with executives.


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