City plans task force to save Covid-battered London

The City of London Corporation is planning to launch a new task force focused on saving the Covid-battered Square Mile, as the UK battles to contain a second wave of the pandemic.

Catherine McGuinness, the Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee at the Corporation, told Financial News that during a committee meeting on 24 September she had proposed setting up a new group to guide London’s finance district through “a very challenging moment”.

The task force would, she said, consist of representatives from the Corporation, the City’s local authority, and examine “what we can do ourselves to stimulate activity within the Square Mile [to] keep it going for the future”.

“Serious damage will follow if we hibernate our economy,” she said. “We will lose jobs. We will lose businesses and people will be struggling with the indebtedness they’ve had to take on to survive.”

It comes just days after the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new Covid restrictions to stem the spread of the virus. England’s coronavirus cases jumped an estimated 73% in the week to 19 September, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics.

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As of 28 September, individuals residing in England will be required by law to self-isolate if they test positive or are contacted by NHS Test and Trace.  Fines between £1,000 and £10,000 will be imposed on anyone breaching the rules. Employers could also face fines if they force or allow staff to come to work when they should be self-isolating.

Johnson’s new measures, which are set to apply for six months, include advising people to work from home again, and a 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses.

McGuinness had said in early September that the Corporation would be calling on firms to return their staff to the workplace, if it was safe to do so.

She told FN on 25 September that she wanted the government “to look very carefully at the evidence” for imposing its new restrictions. 

“What we’ve seen from other financial centres suggests that they’ve had more people in the offices for some time without that in itself leading to an increase in the virus,” she said. “Let’s look very carefully at the evidence and try to find a way where we can safely increase the footfall into the centre, because livelihoods matter, as well. And the economy is in a really serious state, heading for really serious problems.”

READ Rich finance workers to flee Britain over virus and Brexit fears

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Lucy McNulty

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