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Traveling to work hits highest level since COVID began

The proportion of people traveling to work hit its highest level since the coronavirus lockdown began last week as Britons’ gradual return to offices and workplaces continued.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 62 per cent of people traveled to work in the week that ended on 13 September. It was the first time the figure had risen above 60 per cent during the pandemic.

Having encouraged people to get back to the office, the figures will please the government. It has argued that city center economies are being decimated by working from home, with spending in cafes, restaurants, and bars drying up.

The ONS also said there were more cars on the road. Traffic data show that on Monday all motor vehicle traffic was only three percentage points below Monday in the first week of February.

Activity picks up in London

In the capital, counts of cars, pedestrians, and cyclists were around five per cent above the average level seen immediately before lockdown, the ONS said.

However, the gradual return to normality could be derailed by rising coronavirus cases. The UK registered 3,991 cases yesterday, up from 3,105 the day before and sharply up in recent weeks.

The government has tightened restrictions in various parts of the country, most recently the northeast. It has also implemented a new “rule of six” that limits the size of gatherings.

Yet Britons did not appear to be put off by rising coronavirus cases in the week ending 13 September. ONS figures showed that 74 per cent of people went shopping for basic necessities, the highest level since June.

Separate ONS data showed that 10 per cent of Britons were furloughed in the two weeks to 6 September. That was down from 11 per cent in the previous two weeks and reflects the gradual winding down of the furlough scheme.