LONDON: At lunch hour, James Leahy’s Burrito Joe stall in the City of London’s financial district is usually buzzing as people line up from around the corner for their fajitas, tacos, quesadillas and rice-and-meat bowls.
Now, those same finance sector employees are working from home on the back of a rapid escalation in the UK government’s coronavirus containment advice. And the exodus has left small businesses like Leahy’s that cater to the bankers, insurance brokers and tech workers in the area struggling to stay afloat.
“We’ve gone from about 60% of normal levels yesterday down to about 20% today, ” Leahy, who’s already had to cut two part-time workers, said on Tuesday. “It’s already unprofitable. We have stock we’re trying to shift, but if it continues to go down we’ll have to close it all down and hope for the best.”
More than half a million workers, or 10% of London’s workforce, are usually squeezed into the so-called Square Mile, increasing the risk of people there catching the virus. After specialists said the virus could kill 250,000 people in the UK unless public activities are curtailed, the government has pushed for social-distancing, asking those who can work from home to do so.
Buses and pubs are noticeably emptier, and people have been consciously trying to avoid each other on London Bridge, one of the busiest crossings to the city’s main financial district.
Other areas have yet to take on board the advice. At Cannon Street rail station, passengers freely mingled as they exited the building. — Bloomberg