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Better test and trace can give London back its bustle

From Pop Brixton to the Palladium, this month businesses across our capital have once again closed their doors and sent staff home.

It has been hard to watch London lose its bustle this year. But while the vibrancy is missing, it’s not lost; economic and social wounds can be healed if we take the right steps now.

The CBI’s London Business Survey — produced in partnership with UCL and Travers Smith, and set to publish full findings later this month — shows how companies are desperate to see London roused from its enforced slumber. And, crucially, to build back a fairer, greener and more inclusive capital.

Test and trace 

Such a desire is understandable, as eight in 10 of our respondents saw a trading downturn due to Covid this year. The summer recovery seems to have been tentative, at best.

Sixty eight per cent of respondents have not yet seen output return to pre-Covid levels and 34 per cent don’t expect a full recovery in the next year. That rises to 75 per cent among those in the arts, entertainment and recreation industry.

Now, more than ever, we need to focus on the actions which can really drive a recovery.  

What can be done? In short, testing. Its role is crucial, even with a workable vaccine. Seventy-seven per cent of respondents cited a more effective test, trace and isolate system as essential for recovery.

Over half said accelerating airport testing to reduce quarantine restrictions was vital. Together, these actions can help people resume interrupted routines and restore confidence.

Firms are ready play their part in this revival story — and a palpable shift in consciousness saw over half state that business had made progress on tackling equality but still weren’t doing enough. This commitment to societal change can serve as a clarion call.  

Encouragingly, priorities for the coming year include investing in innovation and technology, supporting mental health and wellbeing, and revising flexible working policies.

Ditching the positives from virtual ways of working is not on the agenda. Instead, many aim to blend the best of the old with the new.  

Above all, we need our bustle back. Controlling the virus, restoring stability, rebuilding confidence. Our short-term actions can lay the foundations for long-term success.  

Eddie Curzon is CBI London Director

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