Don’t rule out big cities just yet, says UK’s Johnson By Reuters


2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Empty offices next to the Bank of England are seen as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in London 2/2

By Guy Faulconbridge LONDON (Reuters) – It‘s premature to rule out big cities like London, which will rebound strongly as the pandemic subsides, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday after unveiling a plan that will keep offices deserted for the duration of the pandemic. months more. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a radical reassessment of urban life and work, with some predicting that the world’s major financial centers, such as New York, London, Shanghai and Tokyo, could leak capital and talent and ultimately, diminish. The count of houses and skyscrapers on the London skyline, from the Mayfair hedge funds and Holborn law chambers to the City and Canary Wharf business flats, have been emptied for nearly a year of restrictions. Big banks, law firms and mutual funds sent all but a small staff home months ago, leaving one of the world’s largest global financial capitals without its hustle and bustle. Shoe shops, cafes and pubs are closed throughout the financial district, some permanently. When asked by reporters if Britain’s largest cities needed a Marshall Plan to survive, Johnson said COVID-19 would accelerate some trends, opening up space for more residential accommodation. “But you know I don’t think this is going to mean a fundamental change in the way our life really works in our big cities,” said Johnson, the former mayor of London. “Our big cities will recover.” He said the paradox was that the better people could speak electronically, the more they craved human interaction. “I am sure he will return and I believe that London, our great cities, will be full of excitement and life and excitement again, as long as people have confidence in returning,” he said. WORKING AT HOME When he unveiled his four-stage plan to lift the restrictions, Johnson warned that there would be no “world zero COVID,” so people would have to get used to the coronavirus as they got used to the flu. But he did not give a clear date for the end of working from home, one of the biggest changes in work practices in decades. Johnson said the government would review the need for social distancing and face masks in a process that would conclude before Step 4 of the reboot plan, which would not go into effect before June 21. “People should continue to work from home where they can.” Johnson told parliament. The temporary end of the office has already forced companies to assess whether they need to pay for large spaces in central London, while the city’s transport system has been pushed into insolvency by a lack of commuters. As employers ponder ways to cut costs in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, some employees have been distracted working from home and studying at home at the same time. Some have found it liberating to cut back on expensive commutes to work. Facebook Inc (NASDAQ :). CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last year that roughly half of his workforce would eventually do their jobs outside of the office over the next five to 10 years. A Citi report last year found that 24% of occupations in the United States could be performed remotely, and that those occupations employ 52% of the American workforce. “Before the Industrial Revolution, most people worked from home producing the goods and food they needed,” Citi said. “The COVID-19 pandemic was able to accelerate the shift to remote work.”