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Hundreds of workers sent home from UK biomass plant site

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Hundreds of construction workers have been sent home from a UK biomass plant, amid concerns over Covid-19 (coronavirus).

The TeesREP biomass plant, run by MGT Teeside, temporarily closed its gates on Tuesday 24 March, although a 'handful' of maintenance staff were permitted to stay on-site, provided they adhered to the two-metre distancing rules, according to a report by ITV.

Once completed, the plant is expected to produce 2.3 terawatt-hours of low-carbon electricity annually, using sawmill and timber residues. The Tees Renewable Energy Plant will produce enough electricity to power 600,000 homes, as well as supplying heat for nearby users.

Around 1,500 people were working on the project, however, many voiced their concerns about the spread of Covid-19. Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said the move to take workers off-site was the "right decision" to protect staff and public health, and that workers who are not returning would be eligible to receive 80% of their salary from the UK Government, as per the new measures.

Houchen said: "Work will continue with MGT to assess how work can recommence safely and within public health rules on social distancing, which will develop over the coming days.

"MGT are committing to try and prevent redundancies, and sub-contractors should contact HMRC to access the government support which is available to them.

"It is absolutely essential in this time of national emergency that everyone pulls together and strictly follows the advice set out by the government."

There has been growing concern over the challenge of social distancing on construction sites in the UK. Government advice suggests construction sites could remain open as long as social distancing is maintained; however, many workers have said this is not possible at all times.