Sunday, May 22, 2022

‘Britain must learn to live with COVID-19, it could be with us forever’

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LONDON: Britain must learn to live with COVID-19 as it may be with us forever, health minister Sajid Javid said on Thursday, adding that Britain was moving ahead of other countries as the government lifted coronavirus measures.

“We need to learn to live with it. Sadly people die of flu as well: in a bad flu year you can sadly lose about 20,000 lives, but we don’t shut down our entire country,” Javid told Sky News.

“COVID is not going away. It’s going to be with us for many, many years, perhaps forever, and we have to learn to live with it… I think we are leading Europe in the transition from pandemic to endemic and we’re leading the way in showing the world how you can live with COVID.”

Banks ask staff to return to offices

Banks including Standard Chartered and Citigroup have told staff in Britain to return to the office, taking advantage of the government’s lifting of work-from-home rules to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Goldman Sachs also plans to resume office working in accordance with the changed guidelines, a bank spokesperson said, while HSBC said staff would be welcome back in its offices from Thursday as part of a hybrid approach.

Standard Chartered has told employees its London headquarters will be open for all staff from Monday Jan. 24, a spokesperson said.

Citi staff are “expected to be in the office at least three days per week”, it said in an internal memo seen by Reuters. A spokesperson for the bank confirmed the contents of the memo.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said the government would immediately drop its advice for people to work from home, with further restrictions – including mandatory face coverings in public places – to be dropped next week.

The immediate response from banks shows how keen Britain’s financial companies are to get staff back into city offices at least some of the time.

The move will also provide a much-needed boost for shops, cafes and restaurants in London’s Square Mile and Canary Wharf financial districts, which have been hit hard by remote working.

“Before Christmas the Omicron variant cast a dark shadow over the Square Mile’s recovery. The signs are now much more promising,” said Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation.

“We look forward to welcoming City workers back to their offices as soon as possible.”

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