UK coronavirus live: Shapps insists return to office is safe amid push to save town and city centres

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Transport secretary urges people to go back to the office; researchers say risk of severe illness or death very small for children

More from Shapps, who is insisting it is “usually going to be OK” for workers to return to offices.
Asked whether the Government’s position is that workers should return to their offices, Shapps told BBC Breakfast

Yes, by and large where it is possible people can now return to work, it is safe to do so, your employer should have put in Covid-friendly – or Covid-unfriendly I suppose you could say – measures to ensure that people can work safely from their offices because there are just things which are impossible to do from home over Zoom videos as we’re doing now.

So yes, gradually now people will start to return to the office. But I suspect we’ll see more flexible working than we’ve seen in the past and it will be for employers and employees to work out the right balance in their particular cases.

And so usually it is going to be OK to return, unless somebody’s in a particular vulnerable state there is no reason not to return.

So now, whereas at the height of the disease there were only four or five people in the building when everybody was being asked to stay at home and the department absolutely complied with it, now you’ll find that each floor has a buzz about it again.

Shapps is being repeatedly challenged on the statement that it is “safe to go back to work” this morning.

On BBC Breakfast, he admitted that more people using the transport system as they return to work is “obviously not without its challenges”.

Yeah, so it’s obviously not without its challenges, but we’re ramping it up so that the transport system will be back and, in particular, putting on additional coaches bespoke for the school children returning in many cases.

Yes I have, yes. I go on them all the time actually because in my job, as you can imagine, I go on them a lot.

What I found, what I tend to find… in London they are a bit busier. They’re sort of up to about 40 even 50% of where they were. Out of town they tend to be less busy.

So at the moment the trains are – all the public transport is very much underused – probably at about a third of its usual levels.

We think now, with the guidance that is in place, and it was updated, if you recall, just before the summer, that there is capacity now for more people on public transport.

We think that we’ve got the right balance in place. But I’m not going to sort of pretend this is all straight forward, it is not.

Everyone knows the restrictions that this virus has brought to bear and we will be watching it very, very carefully next week.

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