The Times - UK (2022-01-24)

(Antfer) #1

the times | Monday January 24 2022 2GM 13


News


Civil service unions have criticised
government demands for officials to
return to Whitehall as polling shows
public support for the end of work-
from-home guidance.
Ministers are determined to fill desks
in government departments when plan
B measures are lifted on Thursday.
A civil service union leader, however,
rebuffed those calls with a reference to
the Downing Street party allegations,
saying he would “not be taking lectures
on hard work” from people “whose def-
inition of a work event appears to
involve cheese, wine and a garden”.
Garry Graham, the deputy general
secretary of Prospect, said: “To suggest
that staff have not been working hard
whilst working from home is a non-
sense not borne out by the facts,” add-
ing: “It is Prospect’s expectation that
government employers will indeed be
leading by example, not by mandating
arbitrary place of work requirements
but by taking an approach based on bal-
ancing operational requirements with
the needs of staff.”
Steve Barclay, the chancellor of the
Duchy of Lancaster, has written to the
permanent secretary of every depart-
ment saying that “it is important that
government departments lead the way
in getting people back to the office”.
In some departments, though, offi-
cials are being required to attend the
office for only two or three days each
week.
Dave Penman, the general secretary
of the FDA trade union for senior civil
servants, said there was a “culture war
from ministers” who “feel that they
want to make a point”.
He told Times Radio: “What I think
they fail to recognise is it was govern-
ment policy that people would some-
times work from home, even before the
pandemic. Most government depart-
ments have only got 60 per cent of
desks for staff, and that’s reducing in
some cases down to 40 per cent,
because they are saving millions of
pounds of taxpayers’ money on office
rent”.
Polling for The Times by YouGov
found that the public backed ending
work-from-home guidance but wanted
to keep other plan B measures.

Asked whether they believed the end
of work-from-home guidance was the
right thing to do, 43 per cent of Britons
agreed while 38 per cent said it was the
wrong thing to do.
Support for the decision was strong-
est among Conservative Party support-
ers, who backed the move by 64 per
cent to 24 per cent, whereas 57 per cent
of Labour supporters opposed lifting
work-from-home guidance.
The picture was different when
people were asked whether they sup-
ported the end of compulsory face-
masks in indoor spaces. Fifty-seven per
cent of Britons said it was the wrong
thing to do, and 30 per cent said it was
right. Among Conservative voters, 50
per cent thought it was the wrong thing
to do and 40 per cent thought it was the
right thing to do.
There was also opposition to remov-
ing the requirement for vaccine certifi-
cation for large events. Asked whether
this was the right thing to do, just 33 per
cent agreed, whereas 51 per cent said it
was wrong. Again, Boris Johnson’s own
supporters disagreed with his decision.
Fifty-one per cent of Conservative
voters said it was wrong while 39 per
cent said it was the right thing to do.

Unvaccinated and proud?


Question Time wants you


Jake Kanter Media Correspondent

The BBC has defended plans to dedi-
cate a Question Time episode to vaccine
sceptics despite government concerns
that it could damage the jabs campaign.
Fiona Bruce, the programme’s pre-
senter, has asked unvaccinated people
to join its audience for an episode in
London on February 3. “If you are
someone who has made that decision,
not to be vaccinated, we’d very much
like to hear from you,” she said in a clip
on the show’s Twitter feed this week-
end. “I think it’s an important debate.”
This is understood to have unnerved
government insiders, who fear that it
could give credence to antivax views.
“[It] would be odd given government
spends a lot of time trying to tackle this
sort of misinformation,” a source said.
It is the latest flashpoint between the

BBC and ministers after the rushed
licence-fee settlement and the attorney-
general’s attempt to block the broad-
caster from allegedly naming a spy
working overseas. A High Court hear-
ing on an injunction is expected on
Thursday.
Tim Farron, the former Liberal Dem-
ocrat leader, tweeted: “I’m a big defend-
er of the BBC... but do we really need
balance between facts and stupidity?”
The BBC does not intend to allow
antivax fanatics into the audience, and
the panel is likely to feature experts
who can debunk conspiracy theories or
misinformation. It said: “There are still
substantial numbers of the British
public who are not vaccinated. We
think this is worthy of discussion.”
It added that admitting unvaccinated
people did not break any safety proto-
cols, which include testing and masks.

News


Civil servants angry


at return to office


but public in favour


Henry Zeffman
Chief Political Correspondent

Figures as of 6pm yesterday Source: Our World in Data (latest
figures available) and gov.uk. Note: Selected countries.

Percentage of population who have
received at least one vaccine dose
(total doses administered in brackets)

Daily
(Jan 22)
First dose
19,

Boosters
(Jan 20)
68,

Second
48.2m

Second
42,

Total
36.9m

First dose
52.2m

People
vaccinated
in UK

How Britain compares


UAE 99.0% (23.3m)

Portugal 94% (20.8m)

Malta 89.1% (1.2m)

Spain 87.2% (88.3m)

Canada 84.5% (75.5m)

Italy 82.5% (123.8m)

Australia 82.7% (47.9m)

France 79.5% (133.8m)

US 75.5% (533.9m)

Germany 74 .7 % (161.7m)

UK 76.8% (137.3m)

ALEXANDROS MICHAILIDIS/ALAMY; THIERRY MONASSE/GETTY IMAGES

Beijing orders


mass testing


for 2 million


china


A Beijing district with two million
residents was ordered to undergo
mass coronavirus testing after a
series of infections as China tightens
controls before the Winter Olympics.


The government told people in areas
deemed at high risk not to leave the
city after 25 cases were found in the
Fengtai district and 14 elsewhere.
Residents lined up on snow-covered
pavements in freezing weather for
testing.

new zealand
Jacinda Ardern has postponed her
wedding, as an Omicron outbreak
prompted a tightening of restrictions.
The prime minister said she was
sorry for anyone in a similar
situation. She and her fiancé, Clarke

Gayford, who have a three year-old
daughter, Neve, were planning to get
married near the city of Gisborne on
the east coast of the North Island.

israel
A fourth dose of Pfizer vaccine given
to people over 60 made them three
times more resistant to serious illness
than people in the same age group
who have had three jabs, Israel’s
health ministry said.

india
The 92-year-old Bollywood singer
Lata Mangeshkar remains seriously
ill in a Mumbai hospital after testing
positive for Covid almost a fortnight
ago, but doctors say she is improving.
Mangeshkar is revered by millions
for recording songs for over 1,
film soundtracks. A spokesman
dismissed rumours on social media of
her health deteriorating.

kiribati
The Pacific island nation, one of a
handful of countries to avoid
community transmission of the
coronavirus, went into lockdown on
Saturday after 36 passengers on the
first international flight to arrive in
months, from Fiji, tested positive.
Previously it had recorded just two
infections, in two people returning
on a ship in May last year, who
quarantined on the vessel.
Samoa, which detected its first
infection only in September, also
announced a full lockdown for 48
hours starting on Saturday after 15
people testing positive arrived on a
flight from Australia.

World update


Global cases
349,134,

Global deaths
5,591,

Countries reporting most deaths

Most new cases

US
Brazil
India
Russia
Mexico
Peru
UK

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
865,
623,
489,
318,
302,
204,
153,

1 2 3 4 5 6 8
France
India
US
Italy
Brazil
Argentina
UK

389,
333,
286,
177,
165,
98,
74 ,7 9 9

Deaths per million population

Rank Now Jan 31, 2021
1,

1,
1,
1,
1,

797
1,
1,

836
949
1,
1,

1,

6,
4,
4,

4,
3,
3,
3,

3,
3,
3,

2,
2,
2,

Peru
Bulgaria

Bosnia & Herz.
Hungary
N. Macedonia
Georgia

Czech Rep
Croatia
Slovakia

Romania
Brazil
US
UK

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

10
11
17
27

( 16 )

( 13 )
( 7 )
( 14 )

( 10 )
( 40 )
( 5 )
( 17 )

( 37 )
( 31 )
( 24 )

( 11 )
( 4 )
Data supplied by Johns Hopkins University. US data fluctuates because of irregular reporting by different states.
Figures as of 6pm yesterday. Sources: UK government, Our World in Data, selected countries
Free download pdf