Grant Shapps says it is safe to return to work in offices in England

The UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps has said it is safe to go back to work in England, as the government prepares to launch a publicity drive to persuade the public to return to the office.

Ministers are concerned about the prospects for city centre businesses if more office workers fail to return to their workplaces.

The Cabinet Office will take out ads in regional newspapers after schoolchildren in England return to the classroom next week, advising employers about how to make their offices Covid-secure, and encouraging the public to feel safe to go back.

Speaking on Sky News from his home, Shapps said: “What we’re saying to people is it is now safe to go back to work and your employer should have made arrangements which are appropriate to make sure that it is coronavirus-safe to work and you will see some changes if you haven’t been in for a bit as a result.”

He said there was a limit, “in human terms”, to remote working.

“The vast majority of employers just want to get their businesses back up and running, they want to do the right thing, and many will have found that actually home working can work for some of their employees.”

But he added: “I think there’s a limit, just in human terms, to remote working. And there are things where you just need to spark off each other and get together in order to make progress. So I think common sense will prevail between employers and employees.”