Workers returned to work on Thursday after England’s work-from-home guidelines were lifted as Plan B measures are phased out.
An increase in road congestion was recorded in Manchester and London and public transport was busier than usual.
Meanwhile, Clive Watson, chief executive of City Pub Group, welcomed the return of workers to towns and cities. The company, which runs around 50 pubs, mostly in London and the south of England, said January had a slow month following Omicron’s caution, but pointed to a “significant increase in trading” over the of the last 10 days.
Mr Watson said: “We obviously haven’t started the year where we would have hoped a month earlier, but we’ve seen some positive signs over the past week or two.
“We are extremely positive about the removal of Plan B restrictions and in particular the change around working from home.
“The return of the office workers will be a much needed boost and gives us a lot of encouragement.”
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs in the Commons on Wednesday that work-from-home guidelines would be dropped immediately and rules on face coverings in classrooms would also be scrapped in England from Thursday January 20.
Other measures, including the requirement to wear face masks on public transport and in shops, will end next Thursday (January 27).
The legal requirement for people with coronavirus to self-isolate may also expire when the regulations expire on March 24, and that date could be brought forward.
Location-based technology company TomTom said levels of road congestion – which represent the proportion of extra time needed for journeys compared to free-flow conditions – were 72% in London and 63% in Manchester at 8 a.m. morning Thursday.
This is up from 66% in London and 56% in Manchester a week earlier.
But some cities have seen a reduction or no significant change in traffic.
They include Birmingham (from 57% last week to 55% Thursday), Brighton (from 60% to 50%), Hull (unchanged at 55%), Leeds (from 48% to 44%), Leicester (from 57% to 58%) and Liverpool (from 52% to 54%).
Rob Pitcher, chief executive of Revolution Bars Group, the Manchester-based company behind Cuba’s Revolution and Revolucion brands, welcomed the end of Plan B measures and called for more support for the hospitality sector hard hit.
He said: “Yesterday’s news about the removal of work from home and the rollback of all other restrictions is welcome for our business and will go a long way towards restoring consumer confidence.
“It is imperative that in the future there are no more restrictions as we all learn to live alongside Covid-19.
“We continue to urge the government to support the recovery of the hospitality industry by leaving VAT at 12.5% and maintaining the relief of activity rates in line with current support levels.