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England’s Office Workers and Shoppers Return as Lockdown Lifts

Bloomberg logoBloomberg 12/2/2020 Jessica Shankleman
a group of people walking down a busy city street: Pedestrians walk along Oxford Street in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Most of England's retailers are emerging from lockdown, with just over three weeks left until Christmas and the outlook for the industry looking far worse than before they closed their doors a month ago. © Bloomberg Pedestrians walk along Oxford Street in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. Most of England's retailers are emerging from lockdown, with just over three weeks left until Christmas and the outlook for the industry looking far worse than before they closed their doors a month ago.

(Bloomberg) -- Office workers and shoppers took advantage of an easing of lockdown restrictions in England on Wednesday, a potential boost to a U.K. economy enduring its worst slump in 300 years.

By 1.38 p.m., the number of people on the streets, in shopping malls and in other buildings open to the public in England had surpassed the total for all of the same day last week, data compiled by Hoxton Analytics Ltd show. In London, subway journeys this morning were 31% of last year’s level, compared with 17% last week, according to the city’s transit operator Transport for London.

Boris Johnson’s government has replaced the country’s lockdown with a three-tier system, under which regions face different restrictions depending on infection levels. More than 50 of the Prime Minister’s own Conservative Party colleagues voted against the move, warning of the economic and mental health impact of the new rules. The pandemic has killed more than 59,000 people in the U.K., the highest death toll in Europe, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

“It was clear from the trends over the last four weeks and the general public mood that there was going to be a big spike in footfall today,” Seb Ellson, head of enterprise solutions at Hoxton Analytics, said in an email. “Public patience was wearing thin.”

London has been placed in the “high alert” tier 2, which means people cannot meet friends and family indoors but shops are open. Pubs and bars can only open if they are operating as restaurants, and people are encouraged to work from home where they can.

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