The founder of Pret and current boss of Itsu has savaged Boris Johnson for ‘spouting Churchillian nonsense’ and blasted him over his ‘criminal’ six-month work from home call – as businesses said billions of pounds and millions of jobs would be lost by his plans.
Entrepreneur Julian Metcalfe – who has an estimated £215million fortune – spoke out as the owners of Upper Crust and Caffè Ritazza said it would lose £1.3billion because of travel curbs and home-working.
It came as pubs warned the PM’s new 10pm curfew posed a risk of calling last orders at beloved bars forever.
And the City of London Corporation said the government needed to find a way to deal with coronavirus that ‘Doesn’t cripple the economy’.
Mr Metcalfe described last night’s speech by the Prime Minister as a ‘man sitting down with his Union Jack talking utter nonsense’.
In a further furious broadside he slated his ‘exaggerated nonsense’ before adding he feared Mr Johnson’s plans would see millions of jobs lost.
It comes as another 6,178 cases of coronavirus were recorded on Wednesday and government data showed the outbreak has risen by 37 percent in the last week.
Mr Metcalfe’s savaging of the PM was a far cry from their cosy relationship when Mr Johnson, then Mayor of London, appointed the Pret boss as leader of his taskforce for Croydon following riots there nine years ago.
Speaking today, the hospitality entrepreneur praised Chancellor Rishi Sunak for his efforts to help struggling businesses, before aiming his focus on the Prime Minister.
Mr Metcalfe said: ‘Unless we get some clarity from the government we end up having to keep many, many – I dread to think how many – people will end up being made redundant, it’s heartbreaking.
‘It’s hundreds and thousands of hospitality businesses. The knock on effects are on the people who look after them, who service them, who bring them food, and clean them – it’s hundreds of thousands, millions of jobs.
‘What we need is the government, particularly our Prime Minister, this man sitting down with his Union Jack talking utter nonsense, that’s where we need leadership
‘What I would advise our Prime Minister to do, number one is get aligned with his team.
‘To turn to an entire nation and say stay at home for six months and to spout off some Churchillian nonsense about we’ll make it through, it’s terribly unhelpful to this country
‘This talk of six months is criminal, it should be we will review it, we are here to serve you as civil servants. We will review the information and the data each week, each hour, we will behave like responsible people.’
It came as tens of thousands of Britons vowed to battle on to save the economy today as they headed back to work after the Prime Minister’s call to avoid the office.
Some of the county’s biggest firms declared ‘nothing had changed’ following Boris Johnson’s desk-banging performance last night.
Most had already been allowing staff to split time between home and the office and said their business needs meant it would continue.
Mr Metcalfe added to Radio 4: ‘The repercussions on this six months is going to be devastating to so many people, to local councils, to industry, to people all over our country, devastating.
‘We have just not begun to touch the seriousness of this. How long can this continue, this vague work from home? Don’t go on public transport?
‘Meanwhile the industries that keep this country going, they’re all expected to go to work, our hospitals and everyone in them. What happens to the thousands of people who look after and maintain shopping centres, the ramifications of this are just enormous.
‘Not, everyone stay at home for six months and we’ll see where we are because the scientists – all disagreeing with each other – have said X, Y or Z. It’s just nonsense.
‘We need leadership, we don’t need exaggerated nonsense.’
Pubs have been left despondent over the rule on putting a 10pm curfew on them and restaurants.
Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra), said the new measures pose a ‘very, very real risk’ to pubs and their staff.
‘I think communities are going to see their locals lost forever,’ he said.
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer and Pubs Association, added: ‘During the current circumstances every hour of trading is crucial to the survival of pubs – for many this curfew will render their businesses unviable.
‘The Government now needs to act fast in putting together a comprehensive support package to ensure that thousands of pubs don’t close their doors for good.’
Just 18 hours after the Prime Minister’s speech:
- Business leaders urged Mr Johnson to think about other ways to stifle the spread of coronavirus
- Traffic data from the UK’s biggest cities showed no change following his big speech to the country
- Commuters on the way to the office blasted his guidance as ‘conflicting’ and ‘confusing’
- One banker warned the mixed messaging would inflict a ‘devastating impact on the economy’
- Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation, said it was ‘disappointed’ with the work from home suggestion and said ‘We feel that this will set back the recovery’
- The Chief Executive of UKHospitality called the restrictions as ‘another crushing blow’ for many businesses
- Transport eateries Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza reported a £1.3billion lockdown loss
The Tubes were jam-packed again this morning as thousands of Britons continued to make their way into work, defying the Prime Minister’s call to avoid the office
Scores of passengers wearing masks make their way off an Underground train on the Jubilee Line this morning
The Underground was packed with commuters again this morning, despite the Prime Minister’s pledge to stay at home
Furious Tory MPs have turned on ‘authoritarian’ Boris Johnson as he ordered the British public to obey his draconian new coronavirus restrictions – or face an economically devastating second national lockdown
Among those still in are head offices for supermarket chains, as well as high street banks who need to have personnel in their buildings.
Asda, who last month said staff could return to its Leeds HQ, said they could still attend but had told workers not to come in unless they had to.
NatWest and RBS, who had 10,000 staff back in throughout the pandemic to help customers, are still having them in their offices to help customers.
Barclays had started to bring even more people back but were revealed yesterday to have told 1,000 of them to return to a working from home set-up.
KPMG is also understood to expect a large number of its 5,000 workers to continue working from home.
An industry source told MailOnline: ‘Most businesses have covid-secure settings and need people in offices to be able to help their customers.
‘Nothing has changed for many after the Prime Minister’s speech.’
A NatWest Group spokesperson said its priority had been looking after staff and customers.
They added: ‘Enabling the majority of our colleagues to work from home has allowed us to support our customers in a safe way. For most people, this will continue into 2021.
Waterloo Station was at the same level of use as before the Prime Minister’s announcements yesterday to the public
UK records 6,178 more cases of Covid as outbreak grows 37% in just a week
Britain today recorded 6,178 cases of coronavirus as government data showed the outbreak has risen by around 37 per cent in the space of just one week.
Data shows that 4,501 new Covid-19 infections are now being recorded each day, on average, up from 3,286 last Wednesday. The UK yesterday became just the 14 country in the world to pass the milestone of 400,000 cases, after another 4,926 patients tested positive for the disease.
Today’s figure is, technically, the second-highest amount of cases ever recorded in a 24-hour spell in Britain. But it is impossible to accurately compare infections now to numbers recorded on the darkest days of the outbreak in March and April.
Fewer than 20,000 of the most severely-ill patients were being tested during the peak of the first wave, a figure which now stands at around 230,000. Top experts believe at least 100,000 new cases were truly occurring each day during the worst part of the first wave.
Scotland also recorded its highest ever daily rise in positive coronavirus cases today — 486 people in the past 24 hours. But experts say its data also cannot be compared to the peak of the crisis because of the lack of testing.
The figures will likely be seized upon by advocates of tougher lockdown policies, as the scientific debate rages on as to whether the new restrictions unveiled yesterday will be enough to keep the outbreak under control. One SAGE member accused the government of ‘not learning the lessons from March’, while another Oxford University scientist warned ‘we will talk ourselves back into a lockdown’ if we panic over every up-tick in infections.
‘However, we have more than 10,000 colleagues working in branches and offices across the UK – as we have throughout the pandemic – to make sure our customers have access to the support and services they have need.’
Public transport also told the same story with workers packing trains as they headed to their jobs.
Executive recruitment consultant Greg Comer, 29, was heading to his office in Waterloo from his home in Greenwich this morning.
He said: ‘I saw the Prime Minister’s speech last night about working from home if you can.
I believe there has to be a balance struck between pushing forward economic activity and concerns over health.
‘Personally I find working in an office environment much more beneficial in terms of work rate and practicality.
‘I enjoy interacting with members of my team in person to get a bit of a buzz going.
‘The office has been open since July 16 and I’ve been in every working day since.
‘We’re working to about 25 per cent capacity, there’s about 10-12 of us In the office out of a team of 40 so we’re able to easily observe social distancing guidelines.
‘Maybe going in to the office is a risk, maybe travelling in on public transport is a risk but until we get a much more distinct set of instructions from the government, like during the first lockdown, then I think many people will continue to take those risks.’
At Bank underground station, workers were defiantly returning to work, claiming the Government’s guidelines were confusing and that they were far more productive working in an office rather than home.
James Jeffs, 47 director of Vir2ue Comms, a telecoms company based in the City of London said: ‘I could work from home, but you can’t create the same atmosphere as you can in the office. You can’t bounce ideas off other people and I also miss the banter.
‘The Government is sending out very mixed messages about working from home. My fear is that telling people not to come to the office again is going to have a devastating impact on the economy. Just look at the City. All the shops, cafes and restaurants are empty.
‘Boris has got this wrong. He should be encouraging people to return to work while maintain all the coronavirus guidelines, not sit at home.’
Waterloo station had workers milling around to head to the office during rush hour this morning
From a wine shop to £215million: Who is Pret founder Julian Metcalfe?
Julian Metcalfe burst onto the food scene after an early working career in commercial property.
His grandfather Edward was best man to the newly abdicated Edward VIII at his marriage to Wallis Simpson.
He started out in business by opening a wine shop in Fulham while also working as a chartered surveyor.
Then he and university friend Sinclair Beecham bought Pret a Manger in 1986 when it was a failed restaurant, using money from the sale of the shop
They transformed it into a sandwich chain and expanded out from its single branch.
In 2018 he sold his remaining stake in the business when German investment firm JAB Holding bought the company for £1.53billion.
Last year the Sunday Times Rich List had him in 556th place with an estimated fortune of £215million.
It said he currently owns 54% of London-based sushi bar operation Itsu, where assets surged £6m to £40.5m in 2017
Jas Bhachu, 47, a finance director of an international payments company said: ‘We are getting conflicting messages from the Government and once again, they had done another major U-turn over its latest announcement on working from home.
‘I’m not going to listen and will continue coming into the office. I could work from home if I wanted to, but I find that I’m a lot more productive when I’m in the office. Some of our staff have been furloughed while others did work from home for a while but we’re all now back in the office.
‘I like the office environment; you get through things a lot quicker.
‘The Government doesn’t really have a plan. They keep changing their minds and it’s causing a lot of confusion.’
Max Porter, 24, director of a charity said: ‘Like most people, I’m quite confused by the Government’s latest announcement. First, they told us to stay at home, then they told us to return to work and now they’re telling us to stay at home again.
‘I’ve been coming into the office since July and I prefer it to working from home. It’s a lot more productive and professional. The Government needs to make up its mind on what it wants us to do.’
Banker Jerry Wu, who is also studying for an MBA said: ‘I’m from Hong Kong and the Government there has a far clearer idea of what it wants people to do during this pandemic.
‘The British Government keeps changing its mind. This is confusing people and will have a devastating impact on the economy. The messaging is all wrong and not being delivered properly.
‘I think it’s better for people to be in an office environment because that will also help kick start the economy.’
Mr Wu added: ‘I know one bank which employs 700 people and only five of them turned up for work today following the Government’s announcement.’
Following the huge U-turn, the premier faced fire from all sides, with small business owners saying they will go bust if staff stayed home.
Traffic from some of the UK’s biggest cities showed no sign of motorists heeding advice to stay home
Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner SSP lose £1.3billion in lockdown
Upper Crust and Caffe Ritazza owner SSP has said nearly two-thirds of its sites still remain closed as it revealed a sales hit of around £1.3 billion due to the pandemic.
The group said it has reopened around 1,100 outlets since lockdown, which decimated trading at its food and drinks sites in airports and railway stations as passengers numbers plunged.
SSP said sales are set to plummet by around 86% in its second half to September 30, with revenues down about £1.3 billion, while operating losses will be in the middle of its predicted £180 million to £250 million range.
The group recently warned that up to around 5,000 jobs are under threat – more than half of its 9,000-strong peak season workforce – as it looks to slash costs in response to the pandemic.
It had warned that only around a fifth of its sites in the UK would open by the autumn, but it has been able to reopen more sites as sales have improved slightly since full lockdown restrictions eased.
A slight improvement in passenger demand has seen weekly sales declines narrow to around 76% from 95% in its third quarter, it said.
In the UK, it said there had been a small recovery in air travel, although it was held back by ever-changing quarantine restrictions, while rail travel remained very weak with a slow recovery as workers tentatively returned to offices.
The latest restrictions brought in on Tuesday by the Prime Minister, including instructions for office staff to work from home where they can, are likely to deal another blow.
SSP cautioned that demand ‘may well remain subdued’ over the winter months.
Simon Smith, chief executive of SSP Group, said: ‘We have seen some improvement in passenger demand since the start of the crisis and we have reopened units swiftly and profitably in response to this, with over one-third of our units now trading.
‘Our model is flexible and we will continue to align unit openings with demand, meeting the needs of our customers whilst managing operating costs and cash flow tightly.
‘In the medium term we expect to see the gradual return of passenger travel to more normalised levels.
‘The actions we are taking to rebuild the business will enable us to emerge fitter and stronger.’
Catherine McGuinness, policy chair for the City of London Corporation, the local authority for the Square Mile, said it is ‘disappointed’ over new coronavirus guidance for workplaces.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Clearly safety has to come first and we’re at a moment when measures need to be taken.
‘But we are disappointed at the blanket call for office workers to return to working from home where possible.
‘Firms have taken huge steps to make sure that their offices are Covid-secure. It’s clear that this virus isn’t going to go away quickly so we need to find a way of living with it that doesn’t cripple our economy.’
She claimed other financial centres had people back in the office without apparent related increases in infection and called on the Government to look ‘really closely’ at coronavirus evidence.
Ms McGuinness said the City of London Corporation would be asking companies to comply with government guidance, but highlighted that the fourth-quarter forecast was ‘looking very bad’ and there were ‘job losses down the road’.
She also said she was ‘concerned’ about the knock on effect on local supporting businesses.
‘We’re not happy, we are disappointed and we feel that this will set back the recovery, but… we have to take steps at this difficult time,’ she added.
Further restrictions, which could last for well into next year, will see pubs and other leisure and hospitality businesses like restaurants face a 10pm curfew from Thursday.
People working in retail, those travelling in taxis, and staff and customers in indoor hospitality will also have to wear face coverings – except while seated at a table to eat or drink.
In a grave Commons statement the Prime Minister warned that the new curbs could last for six months – taking them well beyond Christmas – ‘unless we palpably make progress’.
Mr Johnson was barbed for introducing new measures including a 10pm pub curfew and £200 fines for mask rule-breakers among new restrictions on social settings in England.
The PM also announced he is making the British Army available to help the police enforce stringent new coronavirus rules.
He said officers will now have the ‘option to draw on military support where required’ to free up staff so more can crackdown on rule-breakers as he revealed fines are being doubled to £200.
But Downing Street ruled out deploying soldiers on the streets, saying they would be used for ‘backfilling certain duties, such as office roles and guarding protected sites, so police can be out enforcing the virus response’.
Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Ken Marsh slammed the announcement as ‘a nonsense’ and National Chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales John Apter said it ‘lacked any detail’.
Rush hour in Bristol saw the usually packed M5 extremely quiet after the Prime Minister’s address to the nation last night
Queues of traffic were nowhere to be seen as motorists shunned motorways in their cars after the speech from Number 10
Meanwhile Chief Executive of UKHospitality Kate Nicholls described the restrictions as ‘another crushing blow’ for many businesses.
Responding to the address, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said: ‘We all want nothing more than to beat this dreadful virus and get back to normal.
‘Sadly, today’s statement from the Prime Minister confirms this is a long way off and there will be difficult times ahead.
‘The Prime Minister must take responsibility for what has gone wrong, and apologise for the chaotic failure of his ”world beating” test and trace system. It is inexcusable that this vital test and trace operation has been totally overwhelmed in recent weeks.
‘Ministers must outline details of the practical steps they are taking to fix the test and trace system as quickly as possible. This is the only way to avoid yet more restrictions.
‘With millions of people worried about their jobs, businesses and livelihoods, the Prime Minister must also urgently set out a new economic plan, including the extension of furlough and more help for the self-employed and small business.’
The evidence from Scotland that tougher rules do work to fight Covid-19: Glasgow’s outbreak slowed within five days of being hit by a local lockdown
Tougher lockdown rules could work, suggests official data showing Glasgow’s spike in coronavirus cases was controlled within days of being hit by fresh restrictions.
Residents in the city, home to around 600,000 people, and two neighbouring areas were banned from visiting any other households back at the start of September, in a desperate attempt to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The decision, announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, was prompted by figures revealing Glasgow’s spiralling outbreak was to blame for nearly a third of new cases in Scotland.
Around 37 people were testing positive for the life-threatening infection each day on September 2, the day when the restrictions came into place.
This had risen six-fold from the middle of August, when an average of six people were being diagnosed each day, and was up massively on the rolling average of just one infection a day in July.
But government statistics show the city’s infection curve had started to flatten just five days after the measures were imposed, showing the rolling average had hit 52 on September 7 and has barely risen since.
Glasgow’s seven-day rolling average of Covid-19 cases (blue line) has flattened since residents were banned from visiting any other households on September 2
A similar pattern was shown in West Dunbartonshire
In East Renfrewshire, cases continued rising (blue line) after restrictions were imposed on September 2. But since then, cases have dropped back down again
Nicola Sturgeon imposed a blanket ban on social mixing in households from today in Scotland
Figures from Public Health Scotland, the country’s health agency which updates Covid-19 data daily, shows a small uptick in cases over the past few days, with the rolling average standing at 64 on September 20.
Fresher data is not yet available because it is based on when samples were taken and not how many were actually registered on any given day. It can take several days for patients to get their results back.
This uptick in the past two weeks is in line with the rest of the UK, which has been blamed on children and adults returning to school and work, and appears to now be dipping again.
Sir Harry Burns, a professor of global public health at the University of Strathclyde, said data shows the lockdown measures in the west of Scotland are working.
Because of this, he supported Ms Sturgeon’s decision to impose a blanket ban on social mixing in households from today.
And it’s claimed Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, is adamant England needs its own household visit ban.
Around 1.7million Scots are now under tougher local restrictions — almost a third (31 per cent) of the country’s 5.4million population.
Aberdeen, home to 208,000, had previously been under a strict ‘lockdown’ from August 5 to August 23, which included the closure of pubs and restaurants, a household mixing ban and a travel restriction of five miles.
East Dunbartonshire seen Covid-19 cases drop (blue line) since restrictions were put in place on September 7 (pictured)
Renfrewshire has seen Covid-19 cases stall (blue line) since restrictions were put in place on September 7 (pictured)
South Lanarkshire is starting to show improvements in Covid-19 cases (blue line), having been added to the list of places in Scotland hit with harder measures on September 12 (pictured)
North Lanarkshire has seen cases dip very slightly (blue line) before rising again after a ‘lockdown’ was imposed on September 12 (pictured)
Glasgow, West Dunbartonshire and East Renfrewshire were then slapped with new Covid-19 control measures on September 3.
It was expected to be in place for two weeks, however the Scottish Government has not yet lifted them.
Restrictions on visiting other households were applied because ‘transmission appears mainly to be happening inside people’s homes and between households, rather than in pubs and restaurants’, Ms Sturgeon said.
The daily average of cases in Glasgow at the time was 36.6. Cases continued to be diagnosed, reaching an average of 52 five days after the measures were announced.
But then, a week after the restrictions were put in places, cases levelled off at 44.6, suggesting the spike had been stopped in its tracks.
A similar pattern was shown in West Dunbartonshire, home to 89,000 people.
The average went from seven on September 2, to nine on September 6, before levelling off between five and seven cases a day.
It appears both Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire saw a sudden spike in cases again in mid-September. But data from the past two to three days shows this may be resolving.
In East Renfrewshire, around four people a day were testing positive for the coronavirus when the area was put under ‘local lockdown’.
This continued to rise sharply, doubling to eight by September 11. But since then, cases have dropped back down to four per day.
Although it is at the same level as when the measures were imposed, the data shows the outcome is still better than what could have been, had the virus been allowed to continue spreading.
On September 7, Ms Sturgeon ‘regrettably’ extended the measures to East Dunbartonshire and Renfrewshire, home to around 286,000 people, combined.
Both have seen a significant stalling in the spiralling Covid-19 cases.
South Lanarkshire is starting to show improvements, having been added to the list of places in Scotland hit with harder measures on September 12. But North Lanarkshire’s cases are still climbing.
Ms Sturgeon has now taken the Covid-19 response a step further in Scotland, proving to be moving more cautiously than neighboring England once again.
Scots are being barred from visiting other people in their own home – with some exemptions – officially from Friday. But people are being encouraged to comply from today. Ms Sturgeon also confirmed that Scotland would be following England in imposing a 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants.
It came as part of a package of measures to try to stop coronavirus from ‘spiralling out of control’ in Scotland.
Sir Harry told BBC Scotland’s The Nine: ‘I can understand the reasons for the decisions the First Minister has made.
‘That’s basically because the data on the progress of the partial lockdown in the west of Scotland shows that it’s been effective, so she’s extending that to the rest of Scotland.
‘I don’t think we can do this too early, to be honest. I think we were a bit late going into the first lockdown and that may be why we had such significant impact. But I think we are seeing increasing daily cases.
‘Initially they highest number of cases were in the 20-40 year olds. We are now beginning to see cases increase in the over 60s and hospitalisations are increasing.
I think if we don’t go now, we will see significant numbers of hospitalisation, significant strain on the hospital system again, and significant numbers of deaths.’
Ms Sturgeon accepted the ‘tough’ new restrictions felt like a ‘step backwards’, but they had not been introduced lightly.
She also defended her decision to introduce tougher coronavirus restrictions than in England.
The Scottish First Minister insisted the expert advice she received was that a curfew on pubs alone, as is the case in England, would not be sufficient to halt rising case numbers.
She refused to directly criticise UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for failing to take action to prevent households from mixing indoors, as she has done.
But she did say she believed governments should ‘try to co-ordinate as much as possible across the UK’.
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain programme she said Scotland and the UK were in a ‘tough spot’.
Warning that ‘we are again at a tipping point with Covid’, Ms Sturgeon added: ‘If we don’t act now, urgently and decisively, then we might find Covid running out of control again.
‘The judgment I have made, and it is not an easy one, is if we take tough action now we might actually manage to be under these restrictions for a shorter period of time then we would end up being if we delayed that action.
‘So these are tough judgments but I think, given the loss of life we know that Covid can result in, the health damage that it does, we’ve got to be prepared at moments like this, people like me, to take tough decisions and to be prepared to do things even if they are unpopular, for the greater good.
‘I can only look at the situation in Scotland and I can only speak for the judgments I am making.
‘And my advisers say to me, yes, a curfew on pubs is certainly something that should be done and we have taken that decision, but in and of itself it is not going to be enough to arrest this increase in Covid cases and bring the R number down and bring the epidemic under control again.
‘That’s why I made the difficult judgment yesterday to go further.’
Working from home: how big business is reacting
Some big businesses have already announced how they are reacting to the new directions from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the government on coronavirus and working from home:
The bank had been getting staff to return to the office after an absence and spell of working from home during the UK’s strict pandemic lockdown. After the PM’s statement around 1,000 of the returned staff were told to go back to home-working.
RBS/ NATWEST GROUP
The company which owns NatWest and RBS had a total of 10,000 staff working in offices and branches during the pandemic. It said today they would remain there but people were still able to work from home.
Staff at Asda’s Leeds headquarters had begun to be welcomed back into the office, but in light of the govenment’s announcement had decided to switch to a ‘work from home if you can’ policy. It is understood to have told staff they can go back in if it is for a business reason.
Tesco had also been phasing in a return to its offices as recently as last month as coronavirus restrictions were relaxed. Today they began asking all office colleagues, that are able to do so, to still work from home.