UK encourages workers to return to work

A cyclist rides his bike along Waterloo Bridge, in London, Monday, May 18, 2020. Large areas of London are to be closed to cars and vans to allow people to walk and cycle safely as the coronavirus lockdown is eased, including Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge. (AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali)

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government will urge people to return to offices and other workplaces where it is safe to do so to help the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, transport minister Grant Shapps said on Friday.

“Our central message is pretty straightforward: we are saying to people it is now safe to return to work,” he told LBC radio.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will launch a campaign extolling the virtues of returning to the office and providing reassurance that it is a safe place, while a new online tool will help people avoid the most crowded trains and buses, a report in the Telegraph newspaper said.

According to data from the Centre for Cities, only 17% of workers in British cities had returned to their workplaces by early August, underscoring the challenge facing Johnson in steering the country away from its coronavirus shutdown.

The data, based on mobile phone signals, showed no increase in the footfall of workers going to city centres between late June and the week starting Aug. 3.

Last month, Johnson encouraged people working from home to get back to their workplaces to help the economy recover from its 20% contraction in the April-June period, the largest fall among big developed economies.