Patel: Social distancing ‘in every single work area’ after lockdown

There will be "new norms" when the UK comes out of lockdown and social distancing will be expected "in every single work area", the Home Secretary has said.

Answering questions from the Commons Home Affairs Committee on Wednesday about her department's plans as part of the Government's exit strategy from lockdown, Priti Patel said: "The fact of the matter is we will not go back to how we were in early March."

She told the committee's MPs: "There is a lot of work that is taking place and there are lots of assessments.

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Johnson silent over when he first knew of Priti Patel bullying allegations
Vanessa Feltz (left) sips tea with newly elected Witham MP Priti Patel during an event supporting Breast Cancer Care's Strawberry Tea fundraising campaign at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London.
Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with Witham MP Priti Patel in front of the Shah Sayyid Tomb in the Lodi Gardens in Delhi, India.
Prime Minister David Cameron and Witham MP Priti Patel, walk through Kolkata, India, where they visited the Howrah Bridge which was built by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company.
Priti Patel who is the new Employment Minister, arrives at 10 Downing Street in London, as the PM puts the finishing touches to his new cabinet.
(left to right) Justice Secretary Michael Gove, Minister for Employment Priti Patel and Works and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith arrive in Downing Street to take part in the first Cabinet meeting since the Conservative Party won the General Election.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre) is flanked by Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Hugo Swire (left) and Priti Patel (right) as he arrives at Heathrow Airport, London, for an official three day visit.
Employment minister Priti Patel launches a new government scheme to give extra careers advice to school pupils during a visit to Holy Trinity Catholic School in Birmingham.
(Left to right) John Whittingdale, Theresa Villiers, Michael Gove, Chris Grayling, Iain Duncan Smith and Priti Patel attend the launch of the Vote Leave campaign at the group's headquarters in central London.
EDITORIAL USE ONLY Minister for Employment Priti Patel tries her hand at painting with Matt Gray, Painting Skills Development Manager and Matt Pullen, CEO of AkzoNobel, as she officially opens AkzoNobel's Dulux Academy, the UK's first training facility dedicated to painters and decorators, Slough, Surrey.
Works and Pensions Secretary Stephen Crabb and Minister for Employment Priti Patel arrive for a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, London.
Boris Johnson and Priti Patel meet workers at clothing and uniform manufacturers Simon Jersey in Accrington, Lancashire, during a visit as part of the Vote Leave EU referendum campaign.
Priti Patel speaks at a rally with Boris Johnson and Michael Gove (right) in Preston town centre, Lancashire, as part of the Vote Leave EU referendum campaign.
Michael Gove, Boris Johnson (centre) and Priti Patel pull pints of beer at the Old Chapel pub in Darwen in Lancashire, as part of the Vote Leave EU referendum campaign.
(left to right) Boris Johnson, Priti Patel and Michael Gove during a visit to Farmhouse Biscuits in Nelson, Lancashire, where they were campaigning on behalf of the Vote Leave EU referendum campaign.
Boris Johnson auctions a cow during a visit to a cattle auction in Clitheroe in Lancashire, where he along with Priti Patel and Michael Gove are campaigning on behalf of the Vote Leave EU referendum campaign.
Priti Patel MP visits Shree Sanatan Hindu Mandir Temple in Wembley, London, whilst out campaigning on behalf of the Vote Leave campaign.
Priti Patel arrives at White Waltham Airfield in Maidenhead, Berkshire, to meet veterans who will outline why they are voting to leave the EU.
(Left-right) Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, International Development Secretary Priti Patel, Prime Minister Theresa May, Home Secretary Amber Rudd and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall with International Development Secretary Priti Patel (right) during a reception and dinner for supporters of the British Asian Trust at Guildhall, London.
Priti Patel (left) with Boris Johnson's father Stanley Johnson and sister Rachel Johnson watch him speaking at a fringe event at the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre, Birmingham. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel on a walkabout with local police during a visit to North Road, Harbourne, Birmingham before announcing his plan to recruit an extra 20,000 police officers and an urgent review will take place of plans to make it easier for forces to use stop-and-search powers.
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"I'm not at liberty to go into the detail of some of the discussions that are taking place. But I think the fact that testing is dramatically upscaling... clearly that will have an impact now in terms of giving hopefully greater public confidence to eventually going back to work.

"Even before people go back to work there is a job to do yet in terms of securing workplaces.

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(PA Graphics)

"The fact of the matter is we will not go back to how we were in early March. There'll be new norms that will inevitably come off in the way in which social distancing is now dominating our lives and is affecting society.

"Social distancing even in my own place of work right now is taking place.

"We would expect social distancing in every single work area, whether it is an office or a construction site, social distancing on public transport going forward, these are all active things that rightly so we have to test, we have to put through consideration."

It was only the second time Ms Patel has appeared before the committee since she was appointed Home Secretary in July last year, and her first since the general election. Her last appearance before the committee was on October 23.

Earlier this month, she was accused of avoiding scrutiny during a time of national emergency as it emerged committee chairman Yvette Cooper had written six times over the past three months in an effort to set a date for the Home Secretary to give evidence, as other ministers have done.

Last week former Home Office permanent secretary Sir Philip Rutnam formally launched legal action against Ms Patel, claiming constructive dismissal.

He quit his post in February amid allegations of bullying behaviour by her.

A Cabinet Office inquiry launched after claims that the minister clashed with senior officials and belittled colleagues is understood to be ongoing.

During Wednesday's committee session, Ms Patel was not questioned on the subject.

The committee has agreed to a series of private Home Office briefings but made clear this would not be instead of them questioning the Home Secretary in public.

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