TWO developers are to close every single construction site over fears that workers' health and safety could be at risk due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Bellway and Persimmon have announced they are to close all construction sites by the end of the week as the GMB Union yesterday warned the construction trade to stop "ignoring" government advice.

Bellway, which is based in Newcastle, said its 200 building sites would be closed by the end of Friday, although site managers would be allowed onto developments for security purposes and handovers.

Meanwhile, Persimmon said it had begun an "orderly shutdown" of its sites and would continue with "essential work only," which included making partly-built homes safe.

It comes as 1,700 construction workers were pictured huddled together at the construction site of MGT Teesside in Middlesbrough, prompting a backlash on social media.

The Northern Echo:

After discussions with contractors and management at the site, the Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen confirmed workers had been sent home in what he described was the "right decision."

Bellway chief executive Jason Honeyman said the decision to shut its construction sites despite being exempt from the government-imposed lockdown came as a result of fears for worker safety.

He said: "We weren't convinced we could police the social distancing or keep workers two metres apart at sites.

"There's always some people who ignore it." He added that the group was also unable to get materials as builders' merchants are closed and there are no deliveries.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is coming under pressure to order that all non-essential construction work is halted amid worries that workers travelling to sites will hamper efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.