Office commuters shun London but trips to Soho and Bluewater soar

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Last summer, some banking bosses criticised a decision among staff to work from home while continuing to visit bars and restaurants. 

James Gorman, chief executive of investment bank Morgan Stanley, said at the time: “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office.”

The Pret Index, which tracks sales at the sandwich shop chain’s destinations, showed that activity was at just 29pc of pre-pandemic levels in its City branches last week.

Ministers are considering whether to extend the current work from home guidance beyond the end of the month.

Without an extension, measures introduced under “plan B” would expire on January 26. 

Weighing against such an extension are growing concerns about the economic impact of ongoing restrictions, with ministers including Michael Gove, the Levelling Up Secretary, recently saying the UK had to learn to live with Covid. 

Meanwhile, hospitality firms called for a cut to VAT and business rates  after new figures showed a 40pc drop in sales over the Christmas period.

UKHospitality said pubs, bars and restaurants recorded a “devastating” £3bn drop in revenues during December when compared to two years ago.

Firms suffered from a drop in visitors as a fresh wave of infections caused by the omicron variant kept people away, it added. 

Kate Nicholls, the trade body’s chief executive, said a VAT cut and other measures were now needed urgently to “allow business to recover again”.

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