Michael Gove, Cabinet Office minister, has told workers to stay at home if they can, as the UK government turns back on its message over recent weeks to encourage a return to offices to revive city centres.
The hospitality industry, meanwhile, faces more restrictions as pubs and restaurants will have to close by 10pm from Thursday.
“If it is safe to work in your workplace, then you should be there if your job requires it,” Mr Gove said on Radio 4’s Today programme, but he added that if workers are able to work from home they should.
The government had planned to launch a campaign at the beginning of this month with messages and flyers to lure workers back to their offices.
On a second two-week lockdown, he said that “by taking the action that we are taking now, we hope that this will prevent the need for further restrictions in the future”.
Common sense should dictate how much social mixing there is, Mr Gove said.
“The rule of six is simple, straightforward and well understood,” he said, adding that common sense means hosting a party of 20 at home would be out of the question.
“We should exercise common sense and restraint,” he said. “Common sense dictates that there are types of social event that would be excessive and risky, but others that we could support and allow.”
“Some will say the measures are too restrictive, some will say they are too permissive – we are trying to strike a balance,” he said.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson is due to chair an emergency cabinet Cobra meeting on Tuesday and will discuss the coronavirus crisis with the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. He will give a televised address to the nation later on Tuesday.
With additional reporting from Harry Dempsey