Boris Johnson’s “go back to the office” edict is facing fresh humiliation after it emerged that key civil servants have been advised to bring lunch from home to avoid eating out near their workplace.
HuffPost UK can reveal that staff based at the Home Office’s HQ in Marsham Street, London, have been emailed a presentation which appears to directly contradict the PM’s own campaign to help eateries like Pret a Manger and other retailers.
The presentation, complete with a picture of a water bottle and a sandwich, stated: “bring food and drink from home to prevent having to go to shops and stores”.
One insider said that staff were also advised to avoid using the lifts in the building at lunchtime, when most staff normally leave the building to grab a bite to eat or a coffee nearby, as social distancing restrictions meant that there would be big queues. “Which won’t help Pret!” they added.
A quiet retreat from the “go to work if you can” guidance could accompany the new coronavirus restrictions expected to be confirmed on Tuesday, when the PM addresses the House of Commons before making a televised address to the nation at 8pm
One of Johnson’s central arguments for a return to office life was to rescue cafes, takeaways and other businesses that have been crippled by the empty city centre streets at the height of the pandemic.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out To Help Out campaign fo half price meals, subsidised by the state throughout August, was also aimed at reviving restaurants near workplaces.
But with many staff preferring to work remotely for both their health and efficiency reasons, Johnson’s drive to get civil servants to lead by example has so far failed to achieve the success he wanted, and is well short of the 80% target mooted by some in government.
During the early phase of the virus’s spread, the government actively encouraged people to work from home, but Johnson changed that in July to instead say the preference was for a return...