Northumberland's social distance reminder following Hancock revelations

The public have been reminded to maintain social distancing at work and advised Northumberland has an "abundance" of space to do so, following reports Health Secretary Matt Hancock broke rules.

Friday, 25th June 2021, 11:00 pm
Updated Friday, 25th June 2021, 11:25 pm
Northumberland health chiefs will be 'robustly reinforcing all of the Hands, Face, Space guidelines'. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Health chiefs in Northumberland have reminded the public the county has an ‘abundance’ of space for social distancing, after the Health Secretary apologised for breaking official guidance.

Matt Hancock admitted he had ‘let people down’ and was ‘very sorry’ after photos of him kissing an aide in a government office were published.

But while the MP so far appears to have escaped any formal punishment, NHS chiefs have suggested others caught breaking rules could face some form of action or a warning.

“We’re still predominantly working from home [and we’ll only return to the office when] it’s really safe,” said Richard Hay, head of planning and operations at Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), when asked how he would react if he discovered colleagues breaching guidelines in a similar situation.

“We’ll be robustly reinforcing all of the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ guidelines and making sure all staff follow those at all times and, yes, we’d absolutely address any inappropriate behaviour accordingly.

“Two things we absolutely have in abundance in Northumberland are space and fresh air, so we’re really well placed to make the most of that guidance and still enjoy our county in a safe way.”

Social distancing at work is not currently a legal requirement, but government recommendations are that workers stay 2m apart, or, if that is not feasible, 1m with ‘risk mitigation’, such as face coverings.

Northumberland County Council’s director of public health Liz Morgan took a similar line, but also accepted some staff occasionally need to be reminded of the guidelines.

“We do take a very proactive approach if we see people who aren’t following that ‘Hands, Face, Space’ principle, [although] it is easy to forget.

“You can forget to put your face covering on when you’re walking along the corridor – it is easily done – but people are very happy to be reminded.”

Following this morning’s (Friday, June 25) revelations, the health secretary has faced calls to quit or be sacked.

Hancock has also been accused of hypocrisy after he stated government advisor Professor Neil Ferguson was right to resign after being caught breaking lockdown rules in May last year.