Goldman Halts London Office Return Plan After Johnson Plea

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is reversing course in London after Prime Minister Boris Johnson appealed to Britons to work from home to help tame a resurgent coronavirus.

The Wall Street bank is encouraging its London employees to go back to working remotely if possible, though its Plumtree Court office will remain open for those who need it.

“The U.K. government is now asking people who can work from home to do so,” Richard Gnodde, Goldman’s international head, said in a memo to staff. “Plumtree Court will remain open and we will continue to take steps to sustain a safe, ‘Covid-compliant’ working environment.”

The reversal comes just as the bank was preparing to welcome a bigger share of its staffers back into London and New York offices after months of lockdowns left its central hubs largely empty. Goldman had returned about 20% of staff back to Plumtree Court.

“If you have concerns about where you should be working, please discuss with your manager,” Gnodde said in the memo.

Earlier this month, Goldman sent some traders home from its Manhattan headquarters after at least one employee tested positive for Covid-19. The bank is moving forward with plans to start bringing back staffers across most divisions in New York, telling them to prepare for week-in, week-out rotational shifts starting in October.

There’s a real risk of “many more deaths” if people fail to do their part, the U.K. premier warned in a televised address on Tuesday evening. Johnson’s top scientific adviser has warned that the country needs urgent action to slow the spread of the virus.

The chief medical officers for the four U.K. nations recommended the coronavirus alert status should rise by one rank to Level 4, meaning cases are “now rising rapidly and probably exponentially.”

Johnson said the latest measures could last for six months.

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