The government says offices are ‘low risk’ areas - but what is the likelihood of catching coronavirus at work?

Household gatherings are largely responsible for virus transmission (Photo: Shutterstock)Household gatherings are largely responsible for virus transmission (Photo: Shutterstock)
Household gatherings are largely responsible for virus transmission (Photo: Shutterstock)

Workers are believed to be at “low risk” of catching coronavirus by returning to offices, the Health Secretary has said.

Matt Hancock has suggested that employees in England are safe to return to workplaces, as data has shown the virus is predominantly passed on through household gatherings.

Household transmission dubbed ‘the core’ cause

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Mr Hancock has said that data from NHS Test and Trace has shown that household gatherings are largely responsible for virus transmission, rather than in workplaces.

As such, ministers are not currently considering making masks compulsory in workplaces in England.

This decision is in stark contrast to France, where officials are currently planning to make face coverings compulsory in most work environments in response to a recent rise in cases.

While face coverings are required in several indoor settings in England, including shops, supermarkets and cinemas, they are not currently mandatory for “employees of indoor settings.”

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Speaking about the decision not to follow in France’s footsteps, Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast, “We constantly look at the scientific advice and the answer here is that we are not currently considering doing that.

“And the reason is that the evidence from NHS Test and Trace that we are talking about for where people catch the disease is that very largely they catch it from one household meeting another household, usually in one of their homes.

"So it is that household transmission that is the core, the root of passing on this virus in this country. The amount of people who have caught it in workplaces is relatively low, we think, from the evidence that we have got."

Will home working become the new norm?

At the start of August, the UK government changed its advice on working from home to encourage employers to work with staff and get them back to the office.

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Despite the change in guidance, many businesses have continued to advise most of their staff to continue home working, with a new study showing people prefer it to being office-based.

A new survey of 2,000 office workers by technology company Huawei has found that almost nine out of 10 office-based staff want to continue working from home for at least part of the week.

Three out of five people said they want to work remotely for at least three days a week, while another three out of five said they were happier working from home, with the ability to decide on their working environment having a positive impact on their mental health.