Current government guidance for plumbers and heating engineers in the COVID-19 lockdown is that they should only attend emergency jobs, or continue to work on open air construction sites if they are able to enact Public Health England's guidance on social distancing.

Yesterday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be entering a lockdown period, warning that people would only be allowed outside to buy food or medication, exercise alone once a day, or to travel to work if absolutely necessary.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Michael Gove, appeared on BBC Breakfast this morning to clarify some of the lockdown rules for construction workers.

He said: "If you are attending an emergency in someone's home, in order to ensure that people can stay safe in that home, that's appropriate, but there will be some visits in the ordinary run of things which are not essential, and people should not undertake those."

When asked about the wider construction industry, he commented: "It is the case as Robert Jenrick [UK Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government] pointed out that construction should continue on sites, people should obviously exercise sensitivity and common sense and follow social distancing measures, but construction in the open air, on those sorts of sites, can continue."

He added: "I think it's important when we have construction work that can be done safely in the open air, on new sites, that does continue. It's important that we make sure that construction and manufacturing can continue and that seems to me to be the safest way to ensure that we can maintain appropriate social distancing rules, in a way which ensures people who cannot work from home continue to do so."

Update - 25/03/2020 9:00

The government has now provided more detailed written advice for tradespeople working in the homes of others. It reads as follows:

"Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople carrying out repairs and maintenance, can continue, provided that the tradesperson is well and has no symptoms. Again, it will be important to ensure that Public Health England guidelines, including maintaining a two metre distance from any household occupants, are followed to ensure everyone’s safety.

"No work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where an individual is being shielded, unless it is to remedy a direct risk to the safety of the household, such as emergency plumbing or repairs, and where the tradesperson is willing to do so. In such cases, Public Health England can provide advice to tradespeople and households.

"No work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild."