Work start times for the public could be staggered and one-way systems for commuters put in place to avoid overwhelming the transport system when lockdown restrictions are eventually eased, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps also suggested that the government was considering measures to encourage workers to take “active transport”: cycling or walking to work.
He said there were no immediate plans to alter physical distancing measures to tackle the spread of the coronavirus when the government reviews its latest lockdown phase by Thursday. But as part of the plan to get people back into work, public transport could be closely regulated to prevent a renewed surge in cases of the disease.
“Things like staggering work times, obviously [are] very important to avoid those morning peaks. The crushes would be completely at odds with social distancing,” Shapps told the Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme on Sky News.
Trains, buses and transport interchanges could also be equipped with hand sanitiser, as hand-washing remained more important than wearing face masks, he suggested.
“We can help with that by trying to have hand sanitisers,” he said. “One-way systems, spacings on platforms and at bus stops and that’s something that’s clearly marked out.”
He ruled out temperature checks for people using public transport, saying that if anyone had a temperature they should be at home and not travelling at all.
England’s soaring rate of excess mortality compared with other European countries was shown to him during the programme but he dismissed it as not giving a true indication of the complex nature of the virus’s impact.
It was put to him that considering the number of deaths a week above the normal average, England’s line was far higher and still rising.
Asked whether the government had failed to keep the deaths down, he replied that the point the government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, would make is “actually, you need to look at that over a much longer period of time. So we’d have to look back over a year.
“It’s much more complex than you’re making it sound for the simple reason that there are other factors to take into account on excess mortalities which we won’t know about today. For example, what does it do in terms of other illnesses and diseases and what was the impact?”
He said the demographics of a country, obesity rate, geography and population density would also have an impact on interpreting excess mortality.
Statistician David Spiegelhalter told the Guardian that making international comparisons was complex and it was too early to attempt to do so.
Shapps also confirmed that the NHS coronavirus tracing app would be trialled this week and rolled out later this month. It was being tested first on the Isle of Wight, and for it to work successfully nationwide around “50, 60% of people” needed to download it, he said.