Angela Rayner defends her criticism of Boris Johnson
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Angela Rayner said the Government should already be “encouraging” people to work from home following concerns over the new Omicron variant and its discovery in the UK. Working from home advice is part of the Government’s “Plan B” which also includes wearing masks in some public areas – the latter of which do come into place on Tuesday. But Ms Rayner said the Government should go further and introduce working from home advice and remarked Labour also wanted to see a revision of work-life structures which could be made better through flexible working.
Speaking on Sky News, Ms Rayner attacked the Government and said the restrictions coming into place on Tuesday do not go far enough.
She told the broadcaster: “We think the Government should encourage people to work from home where possible.
“Again, if we’ve got an infection that’s rising in the UK and we know that this variant is meant to be more infectious and it’s easier to catch.
“Then actually working from home is a good thing.
“I’ve talked about the future of work as a Labour policy going forward, that I hope that employers can be more flexible with the way employees work.
“Because we’ve seen that through the pandemic they can do, and it’s actually good for work-life balance as well.
“So we encourage people to be able to work from home where that’s a possibility.”
Labour has long backed wearing masks on public transport following the lifting of restrictions earlier this year and hoped England would follow in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales who have kept these rules in place.
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On Tuesday, the public will need to wear masks in shops and public transport in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
However, hospitality venues will be exempt, sparking outcry from opposition parties.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Ms Rayner said: “We think we should be encouraging people to wear masks when we’re all mixing indoors, as much as possible.
“So we would recommend that people do wear masks when they’re out and about, especially when they’re moving around venues.
“The Prime Minister, unfortunately, has undermined those messages in recent weeks, but wearing a mask can be a very protective way of supporting people in stopping the virus from being able to spread as quickly.”
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Alarm bells rang following the spread of a more infectious variant known as “Omicron”.
First reported in South Africa, the variant has been found in multiple countries including the UK where a handful of cases have been found in Scotland.
Dr Angelique Coetzee, a private practitioner and chair of the South African Medical Association, was one of the first to detect there was a new strain.
She explained she has only seen around 30 patients infected with Covid with unfamiliar symptoms and believed they have the Omicron variant.
But she stressed the symptoms were “very mild” and said there was no cause for serious alarm.
The variant is believed to have 32 mutations which have made the virus “dramatically different”, according to scientists.
As a result, there is evidence to show it can escape vaccination as the Government implements further restrictions to stop its spread.
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