Politics

Coronavirus: Johnson pledges extra £3bn for NHS to prepare for potential second wave in winter

Boris Johnson will pledge another £3bn for the NHS to prepare for a possible second wave of the coronavirus as he lays out the next stage of the recovery roadmap.

It comes amid reports he wants to change government guidance so more people can return to work.

Mr Johnson will make the funding promise later today, with the prospect of a second COVID-19 wave a concern as the country heads towards winter.

The PM is also due to explain more about how Britons can live with the virus, after one of his most senior scientists warned further infections are likely if social distancing is eased.

Several newspapers have reported that Mr Johnson will change guidance to tell staff across the country to return to work if they can.

Currently, employees are only told to go into work if they cannot do their job from home.

His chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, cautioned against the move on Thursday.

“Of the various distancing measures, working from home for many companies remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do,” he told MPs at the Commons science and technology committee.

“I think a number of companies think it’s actually not detrimental to productivity.

“And in that situation, there’s absolutely no reason I can see to change it.”

It follows warnings about the future of businesses which serve workers on their lunch breaks or on their commute, following significant job losses at some high street chains.

A Number 10 spokesperson said: “Thanks to the hard work and sacrifices of the British people, the virus is under control and we have eased restrictions in a cautious, phased way.

“But the prime minister is clear that now is not the time for complacency, and we must make sure our NHS is battle-ready for winter.

“He will set out a broad package of measures to protect against both a possible second wave, and to ease winter pressures and keep the public safe.”

Mr Johnson will also say that Nightingale hospitals – set up to help the NHS if it was overwhelmed, but which have largely not been needed – will be kept open until the end of March 2021.

He is also expected to confirm plans to increase testing capacity to half a million antigen tests a day by the end of October to bolster the test and trace programme.

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