politics

London must stay open for business, bosses urge Boris Johnson



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ondon business chiefs have implored Boris Johnson to take any steps necessary to avoid the “disaster” of a new work-from-home order that would cripple the capital’s recovering economy in the run-up to Christmas.

This has sent a shudder of fear through businesses in the West End and the City — particularly in the hospitality and retail sectors — just beginning to see levels of activity finally approach pre-pandemic normality.

Employers say they would rather see enforcement of mask-wearing on public transport, a stepping-up of the vaccination programme in schools, and a more rapid roll-out of booster jabs so that work-from-home advice can be averted.

Catherine McGuinness, policy chair of the City of London Corporation, said: “The Square Mile’s streets have been buzzing again and it’s common to see queues spilling out of cafes and restaurants as people grab their lunch or meet after work.

“A return to working from home would set this back and would be extremely disappointing.

“Of course the virus has not gone away, but we can learn to live with it better. Other countries are managing that. Everyone should act responsibly, getting the vaccine and any booster as soon as possible, wearing masks in crowded spaces, and testing regularly.

“It is vital that London’s economy thrives to underpin a strong sustainable recovery and help pay for the vast amount of support provided since the pandemic began.”

Jace Tyrrell, chief executive of the New West End Company, said: “Confidence is just starting to build, we had just seen 70 per cent footfall in the West End for a full week for the first time since the start of the pandemic. But it’s all so fragile and precarious still. Balance sheets are still absolutely battered.

“We need our office workers back and doing what they do best in the run-up to Christmas but the Government needs to strengthen the message on masks.”

Restaurateur Leonid Shutov, who will reopen Bob Bob Ricard in the City’s Cheesegrater building on Tuesday after more than 18 months of closure, said: “Any measures like a work from home rule would be absolutely disastrous, we need to be learning to live with the virus.



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