Sage scientists warn Boris Johnson not to tell office staff to return to desks this summer over Covid third wave fears

SAGE scientists have warned Boris Johnson not to tell workers to go back to the office this summer over fears of a third wave of Covid.

The Prime Minister urged office staff to return to their desks last summer as coronavirus cases fell – but Sage members have cautioned against any similar calls this year.

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The "work from home" message was brought in at the start of the first lockdown last March.

But the advice changed during the summer as Covid cases eased and employees were urged to return to their offices in a bid to get Britain working again – despite objections from Labour MPs and trade unions.

Rather than telling people to stay at home, Johnson said: "I think we should now say, ‘go back to work if you can’."

But a senior Government adviser told The Times that any mass return to offices this summer would be a bad idea – until the impact of the lockdown easing is better understood.

And Ian Boyd, a member of Sage and a professor at the University of St Andrews, added: "Based on the information I have seen we should not become blasé about the capacity of the virus to jump back at us.

"Retaining sensible measures to reduce the rate of non-essential contact between people is proportionate in the circumstances."

But Mike Tildesley, from the University of Warwick and a member of Spi-M, the Sage modelling committee, said "at some point we also need to have some kind of return to normality from a mental health and wellbeing perspective".


"What I really think is important though is that people are allowed to stay at home when they are ill and are given support to do so," he added.

"This is something that often did not happen before the pandemic and if there is a long-term change that we should adopt it is that – there should be a system in place to support people to stay at home if they are sick, for their own wellbeing and also the safety of others."

Last summer, ONS figures said that nearly half of working adults in the UK were working remotely – compared to five per cent before the pandemic.

As it stands, the Government's message is still "work from home if you can," in a bid to keep Covid levels at bay.

'HYBRID' MODEL OF WORK

When Johnson announced the third national lockdown at the start of this year he said people should go to work only if they "absolutely" could not work from home.

Now, nearly all of Britain's biggest 50 firms are planning a flexible work-from-home model following the Covid lockdown.

The companies plan on using a "hybrid" model of work, allowing staff to work from home two or three days a week post-pandemic.

A staggering 43 per cent of the country's biggest firms are on board with the hybrid working schedule, according to a survey.

And just four employers are still deciding whether the mixture of working from home and office working will be beneficial for them.

Insurance firm Aviva said 95 percent of its 16,000-strong work force want to be flexible and have the option to work from home.

Meanwhile, JP Morgan has had some staff back in the office and Investor Rathbones is operating at 25 percent capacity with staff allowed to come back "if they wish".

As we get closer to June 21 when all social distancing is set to end, more staff may be able to work in offices as capacity increases.

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