Many businesses across London will be breathing a collective sigh of relief: subject to parliamentary approval, the decision to put the capital under Tier 2 restrictions means that they will be able to trade in the run-up to Christmas.
Nonetheless, the festive period this year will be a very different occasion for all of us in the City of London.
Office workers will raise a glass to each other in their living rooms, carol services and Christmas festivals will be scaled back or held online, and normally bustling pubs and restaurants will obviously be much quieter.
Of course, we need to remember that these temporary measures are for our own protection, and I urge all individuals and businesses, across the City and beyond, to act responsibly to slow the spread of the virus, save lives, and protect the NHS.
But livelihoods matter too.
Many firms and business leaders in the City right now will of course, like me, have their eyes on the new year, hoping that as spring approaches it will bring with it a semblance of normality. With vaccines on the horizon, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, and I genuinely believe we are now at the beginning of the end of this pandemic.
But let us not forget too that tough times for all still lay ahead, especially in the wake of the stark facts about the state of our economy outlined last week by the chancellor in his Spending Review.
It’s exactly for this reason that companies urgently need clarity, and a clear plan from the government on when office workers can return to Covid-secure workplaces. Such clarity is vital to get as much of the economy operating as possible and protect livelihoods.
A blanket recommendation to work from home into the spring risks stalling the capital’s recovery and damaging long-term competitiveness. We need a thriving economy to help pay for the vast amount of support being provided at this time.
I know employers here in the City have dedicated considerable resources to delivering Covid-secure workplaces and to restore confidence among their staff. A number of businesses have also signed up to the City of London Corporation’s Covid accreditation scheme. Rest assured we will work with the government to ensure that these efforts don’t go to waste — and, when it is safe to do so, I too look forward to welcoming colleagues back into the office, alongside greater footfall in the City.
However, there are plenty of things we can all do right now to prepare ourselves for the gradual return to workplaces.
We should continue to follow the three simple rules of hands, face, and space. And if anybody does develop Covid symptoms, they must self-isolate immediately and get tested at one of the many locations across London, including Guildhall Yard.
We can also all do something important for our economy, and that is to support local businesses safely where possible during the festive period, and the difficult months ahead. This is especially relevant with Small Business Saturday coming up later this week.
So as we return to a tiered approach to controlling coronavirus on Thursday, I wish everyone a merry December, in the lead-up to this very different Christmas.
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