HOME Secretary Priti Patel has come under fire after telling her staff to come back to work despite the coronavirus pandemic,

A scientific adviser to the department allegedly said “we can’t hide away from it forever" and that 80% of people would get the illness.

Patel said that government health guidance did not mean that staff "should stay at home instead of delivering critical services", according to the BBC.

A leaked transcript of a Zoom meeting involving Passport Office managers, suggested up to 2000 members of staff could return to work on routine passport applications.

While some key workers are exempt from lockdown measures, passport office workers don't appear anywhere on the government's list.

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According to the transcript seen by the BBC, the Home Office deputy scientific adviser, Rupert Shute, said: "You are no more at risk at the workplace as you would be in your home or at the supermarket. It is about minimising it.

"We are working on the assessment that 80% of us, if we haven't already, will get the virus.

"We cannot hide away from it forever. What is also critical for us as a business is to have a manageable level of work in the system, so that when we start our recovery we are not overwhelmed by our demands."

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS Union said: “It is absolutely scandalous that HMPO are suggesting our members can go back into work during a pandemic to process routine passports.

"The cavalier approach to our members' health and safety is shameful and ultimately puts them in greater danger of contracting Covid-19.

"We have already had members die as a result of contracting corona and pressured civil service managers in other departments to shut offices so staff can work from home.

"For the deputy chief scientific adviser at the Home Office to suggest that going into work does not put you at greater risk of contracting corona is extremely irresponsible and totally contradicts current Government guidance.

"Processing passports is not critical work while we are in lockdown and international travel is practically non-existent due to the corona pandemic."

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People have questioned how much reasonable demand for passports there can be given no one is supposed to be travelling unless absolutely necessary.








A Home Office spokesman said: "Her Majesty's Passport Office is fully adhering to public health advice across all our offices and adopting social distancing measures to keep both its staff and customers safe.

"It continues to operate at substantially restricted staffing levels with a significant number of people working from home where possible, and staff are prioritising emergency cases. Guidance is also available for people who are travelling into work.

"It was made clear in the meeting that the Government's priority is slowing the spread of coronavirus and we all have a part to play in order to protect the NHS and save lives."

It comes following the news that since January, Patel has apparently turned down invitations to appear in front of a select committee to discuss the coronavirus outbreak.

She has been offering private briefings with ministers and officials instead.

A Home Office source said it was a "shame" the Home Affairs Committee's chair had turned down the briefings.

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