The UK is reopening for business. London may never be the same

The UK is reopening for business. London may never be the same

4 July 2020 04:00 pm

London has seen more than its share of crises. The 2000-year old metropolis has endured an influenza pandemic, the Blitz and several financial meltdowns over just the past century.

Time and again, London has come roaring back, relying on a spirit of resilience and reinvention that is being summoned once more as the British capital seeks to recover from what may be this century's greatest upheaval: the coronavirus pandemic.
The spread of the virus and efforts to contain it turned one of the world's liveliest urban meccas into a virtual ghost town, driving millions of people out of the city's center and its financial district, and bringing commerce to a sudden halt.

The scale of the shutdown would have been unimaginable just six months ago, when around 500,000 people poured into the area around Piccadilly Circus for the annual New Years' Day Parade and it was common to wait 90 minutes for a table at the busiest restaurants.

Then the pandemic hit. Virtually overnight, shops closed, tourists fled, offices and streets emptied out and the city's 9 million residents holed up at home. Nowhere was the standstill captured more acutely than in the mainstay of London city life: the Tube.

Underground journeys for the month of March tumbled 43% from the 106 million recorded in February, and plunged even further in April, during the height of lockdown, to just 5.7 million. Social distancing rules mean the Tube can only handle up to 15% of its normal traffic, according to London's mayor, Sadiq Khan.

The fallout from lockdown has been severe. London's economy is expected to contract nearly 17% this year, according to figures from the city government, a sharper drop than the 14% decline the Bank of England expects for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Companies in London are expected to shed some 460,000 jobs, or about 7% of the workforce, with manufacturing, construction, retail, and accommodation and food services the hardest hit. Employment is not expected to fully recover until 2022.

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