Johnson signals return of commute with hopes home working will end 'before June'

Boris Johnson has dismissed claims Brits could be working from home permanently, insisting large-scale commuting will re-commence within months.

The Prime Minister said yesterday the country is eager to return to workplaces and see colleagues face-to-face, which he said would give businesses a major boost.

As part of his roadmap to re-opening Britain, Mr Johnson earmarked June 21 as the provisional date for all restrictions on social mixing to be lifted during his Downing Street briefing this week.

Everyone who can continue working remotely is advised to continue doing so for now – though ministers are said to be hopeful working from home can be dropped well before the June 21 target, reports the Times.

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Commuters wear face-masks during morning rush hour on the Victoria Line of the London Underground in central London
Ministers are said to be urging the PM to bring the June 21 big lift forward

Plans are in place for mass-testing in certain workplaces that can’t operate remotely such as retail, hospitality and leisure, with twice weekly tests to offered going forward.

Speaking via video at a Network Rail conference, Mr Johnson said: “I know that some people may imagine that all conferences are going be like this, held over Zoom, Teams or what have you and we’ve got to prepare for a new age in which people don’t move around, do things remotely, they don’t commute any more.

“I don’t believe it. Not for a moment. In a few short months, if all goes to plan, we in the UK are going to be reopening our economy.

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Commuters on a Northern line tube platform at 06:41 in central London
Many Brits have spent the last year working from home

“And then believe me the British people will be consumed once again with their desire for the genuine face-to-face meeting that makes all the difference to the deal or whatever it is.

“Never mind seeing our loved ones, going on holiday or whatever.”

It is a far more cautious approach than when the government lifted the last lockdown last summer only for a surge in cases and a reintroduction of draconian measures.

The London headquarters of HSBC and Barclays banks, at Canary Wharf
HSBC has reduced its office size by 40 percent due to the success of WFH

But the idea of returning full-time to workplaces has received a mixed response across the corporate world.

While Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon wants his staff back in offices “as soon as possible”, others like HSBC is looking to cut office space by 40 percent, and Lloyds by a fifth.

Meanwhile, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove is leading a review into the potential for vaccine passports, with some firms in favour.

The infection rates have fallen sharply since the latest lockdown started last month, and the R rate is between 0.6 and 0.9, while the vaccine programme met its first milestone a day early.

And with 19 million already having had one jab, Mr Johnson is vowing every adult will have been given their first dose by July.



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