Letter to The Sunday Times in response to inaccurate column

Luke Johnson’s ill-informed and misleading column (‘London’s burning. Who will douse the flames’, 27 September) suggested that the City of London Corporation has adopted a “deathly silence” in the face of the damaging impact of COVID-19 and lockdown restrictions on the Square Mile. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We fully recognise that many City businesses – particularly SMEs in the hospitality and retail sectors – are facing an existential struggle. Of course, many firms have adapted successfully to working from home but the significantly reduced footfall on our streets is having a clear economic impact on the wider ecosystem.

That is why the City Corporation publicly called for people to return to the workplace in ways which are safe, secure and flexible. Employers have taken this message on board by dedicating considerable resources to deliver COVID-secure workplaces, which will help staff that need to be in the office for their mental health and wellbeing. The City Corporation has also delivered additional space for pedestrians and cyclists in our transport response to enable social distancing.

The numbers of people returning to their City workplace had started to gradually increase in recent weeks. Unfortunately, this progress will be reversed as firms rightly comply with the Government’s guidance once again urging people to work from home where possible.

Public health must come first but we want this advice to be regularly reviewed in light of the evidence. Other international financial centres have seen workers return to the office without an apparently linked increase in infections.

The virus is not going to go away quickly so we need to find a way of living with it. Saving lives and protecting the NHS is paramount but livelihoods matter too. Hibernating through the winter is not an option for our economy.

William Russell, Lord Mayor of the City of London, Mansion House, EC4N 8BH

Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair of the City of London Corporation, Guildhall, EC2V 7HH