Let people work from home, Government scientific adviser says


P

eople should be allowed to continue to work from home rather than being forced back into offices, a scientist advising the Government has said.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Insights Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), which feeds into the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said the number of contacts people had per week had risen to the highest number for a year, mostly down to people having to go into work.

It comes after a consensus statement from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling operational sub-group (SPI-M-O) said there is still “the potential for another large wave of hospitalisations” as the pandemic continues.

The problem isn’t that people are choosing to party all the time, the problem is people are given no choice because they are required to go back to work

SPI-M-O said: “There is a clear consensus that continued high levels of homeworking has played a very important role in preventing sustained epidemic growth in recent months.

“It is highly likely that a significant decrease in homeworking in the next few months would result in a rapid increase in hospital admissions.”

Asked if there was a danger the public would not comply if further restrictions were brought in as part of the Government’s winter plan, Prof Reicher told Times Radio that many people were not socialising as much as may be thought.

“In the last couple of weeks, people have started mixing more,” he said.

“The rate at which we mix, the number of contacts we have per week, has gone up to 5.3, the highest for a year.

“But when you look more closely, what you find is nearly all of that is due to people mixing at work – a 63% increase – and virtually none to do with meeting in the home and with socialising.

“So the problem isn’t that people are choosing to party all the time, the problem is people are given no choice because they are required to go back to work.

“So again, the problem doesn’t lie in public psychology, it lies in policy which forces people to do particular things.

“And again, that’s why it would make sense for people to work at home if they can, and if they want to, to avoid presenteeism, forcing people to go in.”



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