City AM Editor Christian May told Nick Ferrari on LBC he is launching a campaign to get more people back to work to save the City of London from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Mr May revealed just 15,000 of the usual 500,000 people who work in the City are now back in their offices, warning if at least 40 percent of workers do not go back, the City could suffer a “catastrophic” end.
Mr May said: “The UK is currently bottom of the charts in Europe for the number of people returning to work.
“In terms of people doing five days a week, we’re lingering at around 30 percent. Italy and Spain are at 40 percent, while 50 percent of Germans and the French are full-time.
“The UK also lags behind when it comes to doing one, two or three days a week in the office.
“I would imagine that there are currently 15,000 people, compared with the normal 500,000 working in the Square Mile.
“That is for obvious reasons since March, but the economic consequences are becoming clearer by the day, so spare a thought for businesses in central London who simply cannot survive for much longer without some people being present.”
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It comes as Boris Johnson is facing widespread calls to boost coronavirus testing and tracing in order to safely reopen schools to all pupils without imposing further restrictions on businesses or social lives.
The Prime Minister said it is the “national priority” to get children back in class in England next month, but he has been warned by scientific advisers that “trade-offs” may be necessary to keep transmission down.
Teachers, scientists, opposition politicians and the children’s commissioner for England Anne Longfield have all called for improvements to testing before pupils return.
Ms Longfield welcomed Mr Johnson’s commitment to make children the priority after previously accusing ministers of treating them as “an afterthought”.
But she said regular testing of pupils and teachers, perhaps as frequently as weekly, could be needed even if they do not exhibit symptoms to keep transmission rates down.
“I think it needs to be as regular as it needs to be, to ensure that the infection is caught and identified as quickly as possible and then the tracking system can move on from that,” she told Times Radio.
Schools minister Nick Gibb did not support the call, saying: “All the advice we’ve had is the measures that we’re putting in place, the hierarchy of controls about hygiene and so on and bubbles within schools, is the most effective method of reducing the risk of transmission of the virus.”
Mr Johnson, who has spoken of a “moral duty” to reopen schools, is expected to focus on the minimal risk getting children back in class presents to their health and the potential dangers of keeping them away.
But National Education Union deputy general secretary Avis Gilmore called for ministers to “be clear” about support if a second wave of the virus strikes.
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“Robust track, trace and test alongside health and safety checks in schools and colleges are necessary,” she said.
Another leading educators’ union has said it is drawing up a contingency plan which could undermine Mr Johnson’s hopes.
The Association of School and College Leaders said teachers might teach students on a week-on, week-off basis if there was a resurgence of coronavirus and schools were forced to limit the number of pupils attending, with the onus on parents to home school in the alternative weeks.
The union’s general secretary Geoff Barton said schools were “losing patience” with the Government’s demand to have all children back in school next month while framing no back-up plan if this was not possible.
“If you want to limit the number of children on site or travelling to and from school, a big part of that is using rotas and the obvious way to do it is ‘week on, week off ‘,” Mr Barton told The Daily Telegraph.
The latest tensions over COVID-19’s impact on education come as a European study suggested reopening schools was not a major danger in community transmission of the disease.