Canary Wharf, the second most important financial hub of London is in full preparation to welcome people who work in various offices in the central business district. The hub which is one of the most important financial and business destinations not only in the United Kingdom but also in the world had been almost empty since March 23rd when the lockdown was imposed.
Since Monday, when the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the lockdown would be relaxed gradually, preparations are in full swing to make the area as safe as possible for rejoining of people. The area is a key centre representing the financial prosperity of the country and its reopening would see a significance amount of business activity starting in the financial and banking space. It is, thus, imperative for the United Kingdom that appropriate safety measures be put in place so that there are no infections found in the area, as any reposition of lockdown in this area would mean serious financial and economic loss to the country.
During the lockdown about 3,500 people still continued to work in this facility as emergency staff for their employers with no infections being reported in them to date. Currently, the city administration is taking massive steps to prepare the facility for Monday, 18 May 2020. Disinfecting, deep cleaning and rearrangement of equipment is reportedly being carried out so that the new arriving staff are not put at any risk while ample social distancing is maintained as per the safety protocol recommendations given by the government in the beginning of the week.
On the back of mounting pressure to open the economy due to the massive losses the economy is suffering for each day the lockdown is in place, the British government has decided to open up the economy in a three phased manner while keeping an eye on the rise in the number of new infections. The business area of Canary Wharf will see offices opening in the first phase. There are currently about 125,000 people working in that financial district. When the employees start arriving after the relaxation, the administration expects that nearly 10 per cent of that number, i.e., nearly 12,500 people, will show up for work. This number along with the social distancing protocols in place should be a sufficient number to handle without putting anyone at un-necessary risk.
Most of the people working there except for the facilities staff are white collared employees and have been working from their homes during this lockdown. It is highly likely that many of them would choose to stay at home for more time than taking the risk of venturing out. The Prime Minister in his address to the country while announcing the three phase lockdown easing plan had emphasized that whenever possible where people can work from home they must do so in their own and their colleagues’ best interests.
The Canary Wharf area is home to some of the largest financial institutions in the world. It is one of the symbols of London being the most important financial and business destinations in the world. The outbreak of the pandemic has impacted the most prosperous and populous places in the world. Cities like London, New York and other such important business and financial destinations in the world are being severely affected with thousands of people infected with the deadly coronavirus. It is expected that these cities would see a massive business disruptions caused by lockdowns imposed for a likely longer period of time than other parts of the world. Keeping the above in mind, the opening of the Canary Wharf business district has a special importance for the city of London. Should the governments lockdown easing plan work without any hiccups, this place could possibly see its full business activities restored by the end of July. The administration of Canary Wharf and its tenants are reportedly taking extra measures to ensure that it indeed happens.
Coronavirus pandemic has deeply battered the British economy. Various eminent government and non-governmental institutions who keep an eye on the health of the British economy have stated that the country would be witnessing a ‘significant recession’ like it has not witnessed in 300 years. The Office for National Statistics has in an assessment stated that as much as 10 per cent of the country’s workforce could become unemployed during the lockdown and the subsequent economic slowdown. The Office of the Budget Responsibility has come out with a forecast that the county’s GDP would shrink by as much as 35 per cent during the April to June quarter period and would lead to a contraction of 14 per cent for the entire year.
The government has been most worried because of the rising unemployment numbers in the country and had initiated a number of stimulus measures so that businesses in the country do not collapse and people are able to manage their livelihoods through some form of regular income. At the centre of the execution of government’s initiatives to help the businesses of the country is the banking system of the country through which the stimulus measures are meant to be rolled out. The banking system in the country due to the lockdown condition had fallen short of resources to perform its duties in full swing, thereby pressing the need for the Exchequer and the Bank of England repeatedly requesting the banking institutions to speed up so that relief reaches the intended at the earliest. In this regard opening up of the Canary Wharf business district would have a special significance as it would significantly augment the productivity of the countries banking system.
The country is still far from the lockdown conditions to be completely lifted and the pandemic threat to be completely eradicated. In such time, opening up of the Canary Wharf business area could be a big confidence booster for the entire nation while the government’s support for the businesses and livelihoods in the country can clearly be a lifeline.