British Prime Minister Boris Johnson opened the door on Friday for more people to return to their offices in an effort to kick-start the UK’s flagging economy, which has shrunk by one quarter since March.
He said that anyone will now be allowed to use public transport and that from August 1 employers will have more discretion on bringing staff back to the office.
But the decision put Mr Johnson at odds with his chief scientific adviser who on Thursday said there was no reason to change the current advice, which says people should work from home if they can.
In laying out the new measures the prime minister said he hoped there would be “a more significant return to normality” by the end of the year.
“Instead of government telling people to work from home, we are going to give employers more discretion, and ask them to make decisions about how their staff can work safely,” he said.
Mr Johnson added this could entail "continuing to work from home, which is one way of working safely and which has worked for many employers and employees".
“Where employers think it’s time to come back and it can be done in a safe way, then that is what we think they should be doing,” Mr Johnson told a press conference.
The UK has been one of the countries hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, with an official death toll surpassing 45,000.
On Thursday the chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, who was not at Friday’s press conference with Mr Johnson, said that he could see “absolutely no reason” to change the work-from-home guidance.
“We’re still at a time when distancing measures are important, and of the various distancing measures, working from home, for many companies, remains a perfectly good option because it’s easy to do,” he told a parliamentary committee.
“A number of companies think actually it’s not detrimental to productivity.”