The British government is encouraging workers to return to their offices amid concerns that the shift to working from home during the coronavirus pandemic is hurting businesses and leaving city centers virtual "ghost towns." Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government plans to roll out a media campaign next week that will encourage employers to show staff members what they have done to protect them from COVID-19 and make it safe to return to traditional workplaces. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Friday this is the right time for many people to return to their offices because their children will be going back to school next week, the AP reports. He also said prolonged isolation from friends and colleagues is taking a toll on workers, particularly young people.
"For many people's mental health, it is important to return to a safe workplace. So that’s why workplaces are being made COVID secure over the summer," Shapps said. "Others, I accept, will carry on in a much more flexible way than they did in the past." The Confederation of British Industry has warned of the toll on the economy as traffic plunges at shops that rely on walk-in business. On Thursday, sandwich shop chain Pret a Manger announced cuts of about 2,800 jobs after sales fell 60%. "Some of our busiest city centers resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade," a CBI executive said. The government should expand coronavirus testing and highlight efforts to slow virus transmission on trains and buses to encourage a return to offices, the CBI said. (The UK is in the midst of a severe recession.)