Bedford workers avoided the office before Christmas, according to Google

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As Omicron variant took hold, staff stayed at home

Fewer Bedford residents went into the office following new Government guidance on home-working, figures suggest.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduced new coronavirus restrictions following the spread of the Omicron variant of coronavirus – including advising those who can work from home to do so from Monday, December 13.

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Google uses location data from phones and other personal devices to track trends in people's movement in different areas of their daily lives, including where they work.

More Bedford workers decided to follow new Government guidance on home-workingMore Bedford workers decided to follow new Government guidance on home-working
More Bedford workers decided to follow new Government guidance on home-working

The most recent figures show activity in workplaces in Bedford in the working week to December 17 was 24.8 per cent lower than during a five-week baseline period recorded before the coronavirus pandemic.

This was down from 22.6 per cent below normal levels in the five days to December 10, and a month earlier when it was 23.4 per cent below the baseline.

Activity in workplaces across the UK was 29.6 per cent below normal in the most recent week's data – the lowest level since the end of October.

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The Plan B measures for England include the wider wearing of face masks, the mandatory use of Covid passes for access to large venues, and a return to working from home.

The Institute of Directors (IoD) said this has had an impact on business, and led to a drop in consumer demand at the "worst possible time" for some parts of the economy.

Alex Hall-Chen, senior policy advisor at the IoD, welcomed the Government’s targeted support package for affected businesses, but said it does not go far enough.

He added: “Business leaders crave certainty to enable them to plan and invest with confidence.

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"Therefore, we are also looking to the Prime Minister to clear up the speculation about whether additional restrictions are going to be introduced in the days following Christmas.”

When the new guidance was issued, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said the Government was right to advise those who can work from home to do so – but that this should be reversed as soon as it is safe.

A CBI spokesman said home-working brings significant economic cost by restricting trade for some businesses and impacting mental health.

He added: “Some economic activity is displaced to local areas, but it also leaves our town and city centres under real strain for retailers and hospitality.

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“With the push for a booster rollout by the end of the year, the Government should use the January 5 review to identify a new regime drawing on testing, Covid-secure workplaces and antivirals, to outline its intention for ending the push to work from home."

The Google figures also suggest that people across the UK were using public transport less last week.

Average activity in travel hubs such as bus and trains stations was 33.2 per cent below normal in the week ending December 17 – the lowest it has been since the end of August.

In Bedford it was 36.8 per cent below normal at this time – down from 33.4 per cent below the week before.

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A Government spokesman said: “We’ve supported people’s jobs and incomes throughout the pandemic through our £400 billion package of support, and will continue to do so through our additional £1 billion support package.

“We will continue to look closely at all emerging evidence and will keep our measures under review as we learn more about this variant.”

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