Commuter numbers fall across UK after second wave warnings

Less than two thirds of Britons are now travelling to work as commuter numbers have fallen after Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged people to work from home to curb a second wave of Covid-19.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 59% of UK adults travelled to their workplace at some stage in the week to September 27, down from 64% the previous week, which was the highest since records began in May.

It brings to an abrupt halt a recent rise in commuter numbers after Mr Johnson’s U-turn last week on his campaign to get workers back to their offices.

The ONS data shows nearly a quarter – 24% – of people are exclusively working from home, up from 21% following Mr Johnson’s May 22 announcement asking people to work remotely if they can.

It comes as the Prime Minister looks to control a surge in coronavirus infections, having warned at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday that he “will not hesitate” to introduce harsher restrictions as hospital admissions increase.

Official figures show exclusive remote working hit a high of 38% in mid-June, though the statistics were only collected from the middle of May so miss out nearly two months of lockdown.

The latest data also reveals that 11% of the UK workforce was on full or partial furlough between September 7 and September 20, down from 12% in the previous survey.

This level is expected to reduce over coming weeks as the countdown begins to the end of the scheme, and with the Government further scaling back the amount of money it pays out to furloughed workers.

From this month, companies who want to furlough their staff must pick up at least 20% of the bill, up from 10% in September.

The scheme will be removed entirely from the end of October.

Meanwhile, the ONS said 97% of adults wore a face covering in the past week, marking the seventh week in a row where the proportion has remained at or above 95%.

And in a glimmer of hope for the jobs market, the ONS said data from job search engine Adzuna showed online vacancy adverts rose across the UK, from 55% of their 2019 average to 59% – the highest level since the nadir of the recession in April.