BORIS Johnson has been urged by a senior business leader to do more to get workers back in offices.
The head of the CBI Carolyn Fairbairn has told the PM city centres are in danger of becoming “ghost towns”.
A fresh survey of 8,000 adults from eight countries has shown that workers in the UK and the US are least likely to want to return to the office with fears of a second wave cited as the main reason.
Dame Carolyn says the knock on effect of that reluctance is the damage to thousands of local firms, from dry cleaners to sandwich bars.
“The UK’s offices are vital drivers of our economy” she told the Daily Mail.
“The costs of office closure are becoming clearer by the day. Some of our busiest city centres resemble ghost towns, missing the usual bustle of passing trade.
“This comes at a high price for local businesses, jobs and communities.”
Dame Carolyn – who speaks for 200,000 firms – said getting people back into the office needs to be as big a priority for the Government as the return of pupils to school.
She wants to the government to take the initiative in telling workers about safety measures and enforce the wearing of face masks on tubes, buses and trains.
Dame Carolyn also called for the introduction of flexible season tickets so people can return gradually without financial penalty.
She also said the UK urgently need mass widespread testing – including in the workplace – to help people feel confident and safe.
“It’s time for the UK to bring its workplaces back to life, or we will look back with regret at the jobs lost, training missed, and communities harmed,” she said.
“We ask the Government to work with business to build confidence in returning to offices, starting now. “
Earlier this week it was reported meetings are taking place between business leaders and Whitehall officials over how to roll out the widespread use of mobile testing units in factories and offices around the country.
Employers who have their staff regularly tested could even be allowed to stay open in the event of a local lockdown.
Director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce Adam Marshall said companies could embrace the idea but only if the Government ensures the cost of tests are cheap.
A standard swab test currently costs around £100 – which is out of the budget of all but the wealthiest companies including Formula One, the Premier League and a handful of City of London businesses, who have brought in regular testing.
But the speed at which testing is being developed to enable faster swab results has led to hope costs could plummet and be accessible to more companies.