Britain bouncing back after coronavirus lockdown with 90% of businesses open and millions of shoppers on high street
BRITAIN is definitely bouncing back with nine in ten businesses open again, figures revealed today.
The first official statistics detailing the return from lockdown reveal High Street and shopping centre activity is picking up.
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And traffic is almost back to normal levels — with 100 per cent of White Van Men back on the road.
Experts and MPs have welcomed statistics showing that more people are getting out and about and boosting business after the Covid-19 crisis.
The figures show nine in ten drivers have returned to the road and millions of shoppers are back on the High Street.
But many office staff are failing to get back to work — which is affecting city centres.
PM Boris Johnson looked at the positives and hailed the “hugely encouraging” signs.
The Office for National Statistics data showed footfall at all retail locations is up to 68 per cent from a low of around ten per cent in early April.
Shopping centres and High Streets are back to 60 per cent of last year's levels of visitors.
Ninety-three per cent of businesses are back open. Seventy-seven per cent of firms said there was no risk or a low risk they could go bust.
A third said lockdown had not affected their turnover for this year. But half said they had seen a decrease.
Just one in eight of the workforce remains on furlough.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out Scheme to boost restaurants, cafes and pubs was used 11 million times last week.
Data up to Monday of this week showed road traffic just nine per cent lower than the equivalent Monday in February.
Britain’s White Van drivers are back to 100 per cent of pre-Covid-19 rates.
ONS senior statistician Chloe Gibbs said: “Road traffic data shows the number of car journeys is returning to normal levels as people venture out to shops and travel to work.”
But many huge firms are still telling workers to stay home and it is having a major knock-on effect on rail, Tube and bus commuter numbers and the wider urban economy.
It is a huge blow for cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester. Their centres became ghost towns during lockdown.
Cafe chains including Pret a Manger have announced job cuts as a result of having fewer customers.
Rail usage has slumped to 23 per cent of last year’s levels, the Tube at 30 per cent and buses at 41 per cent.
Tonight Tory grandee Iain Duncan Smith warned: “Office workers, civil servants, those in big companies are really being shown up by the self-employed and small businesses who are all getting back to work and are thus helping the economy.
“It's down to these businesses and their office workers to recognise their responsibility, and get back to the office so they can help all the smaller businesses, the cafes, restaurants and bars in the centre of our towns and cities, so they are able to prosper again.”
A No10 spokesman said: “This data shows our economy and society have reopened successfully — and it is hugely encouraging this has happened without a resurgence in the virus.”
Vital we get city centres buzzing
By Theo Paphitis, Dragons' Den tycoon
WE all faced tough times during lockdown and only when it was right did Prime Minister Boris Johnson give the green light for our shops to reopen.
But customers have stayed away in droves, leaving the retail landscape looking like a series of ghost towns.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics estimate that around 28,000 people in England currently have the coronavirus — less than 0.05 per cent of a population of around 60million.
And while our neighbours in Europe have flocked backed to their offices, we’ve been more wary over here.
Around 83 per cent of French white-collar workers are back at their desks, 75 per cent of Italians and 70 per cent of Germans.
Here, it is just 33 per cent.
That has a knock-on for those city centre businesses that rely on those workers for trade, such as sandwich shops and dry cleaners.
Not forgetting trains and buses that ferry workers around.
Already the job losses are piling up, with Marks & Spencer announcing it is shedding 7,000 staff over the next three months.
I fear it could get a lot worse with many more thousands of jobs lost across the High Street.
Pre-Covid, there was the hustle and bustle of happy shoppers thronging the stores while office workers were spending in their breaks.
It breaks my heart to know that shoppers are staying away in their millions and thousands of staff are losing their jobs, with countless businesses being brought to their knees.
But it’s not just down to the public, we need action right from the very top of government.
People need to have their confidence boosted, and while everyone appreciates we are in unprecedented times and it is tough, it is also the responsibility of the Government to show the way back, just like our counterparts have done in Europe
We need support for entrepreneurs with low rents in new or abandoned units.
And councils could use their compulsory purchase powers to turn empty buildings into places where businesses can thrive once more with good, safe public transport.
Add to that safe cycling, rent “holidays” and flexible-term agreements to help get businesses back on their feet.
So come on shoppers, shop and office workers, let’s get our High Streets and city centres buzzing again.
- Retail magnate Theo Paphitis, known for appearances on the BBC business programme Dragons’ Den, owns stationery specialists Ryman, Robert Dyas and lingerie brand Boux Avenue.
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