‘It’s time to get back to full speed in London,’ says Steve Barclay


illions of Londoners including the Civil Service were today urged to rev the city’s economy back to running at “full speed”.

Cabinet minister Steve Barclay issued the appeal on the first Monday since working from home guidance was ditched.

Coronavirus: Commuters return to London’s Trains and Buses

He also piled pressure on union bosses and Whitehall mandarins not to delay in getting civil servants back at their desks.

The Cabinet Office minister told The Standard: “Now we are learning to live with Covid and have lifted Plan B measures, it’s time to get back to full speed in all parts of Whitehall as well as London.”


Central London has been particularly hard hit by lockdowns and other Covid restrictions as so many workers, tourists and other visitors have stayed away.

But sandwich and coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, bars and other retail and entertainment outlets are hoping that the end of Plan B will boost trade.

Some union bosses have raised concerns over the return to Whitehall with Covid cases still high in London, and have stressed that many companies in the private sector are also adopting hybrid working.

However, ministers have faced criticism that the Government has been slow in getting civil servants back to the office.

Jeremy Selwyn

Mr Barclay said: “The Civil Service has played a leading role in helping the country tackle the pandemic.

“It’s important that we now see the maximum use of our office space as we build a strong recovery after the disruption of the pandemic.”

Paul Novak, Deputy General Secretary at the TUC, said significant numbers of people would be starting to return to the office from this week.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What’s really important is rather than blanket mandates or unhelpful language about ‘shirkers’ getting back to the office, employers have sensible conversations with their staff about how that return will happen, over what time scale, people’s preferred patterns of working, and crucially what can employers do to give people confidence that their workplace is Covid secure and is as safe as possible.”

He added: “Employers are legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment and consultation with their staff.”

The legal requirement to wear masks on the Tube, other public transport and in shops will be ditched on Thursday, as will Covid passports in nightclubs and some other venues.

However, Mayor Sadiq Khan is keeping mask wearing as a condition of travel on Transport for London services to try to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Public health chiefs are urging Londoners to remain vigilant to the threat from Covid, including by continuing to where masks in crowded indoor spaces, to test regularly and to self-isolate if they get the disease.

A further 9,326 confirmed Covid cases were announced for London on Sunday.

There are also concerns that a new variant of Omicron, BA.2 may spread faster than the original BA.1 Omicron mutation, though so far there is not believed to be evidence that it is more virulent.


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