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'Hallelujah': New Asda Chairman Lord Rose hails WFH end and says 'forget about Covid'

20 January 2022, 08:00 | Updated: 20 January 2022, 09:03

By Sophie Barnett

The new chairman of Asda has hailed the decision to scrap working from home guidance in England, saying he cannot believe we have a "nation sitting at home" because they are fearful of coronavirus.

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Lord Stuart Rose, chairman of Asda and former CEO of Marks and Spencer, the Arcadia Group and Argos, told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast he "cannot believe" we have "sat here for so long".

Asked by Nick for his view on the return to office working, Lord Rose said "hallelujah", explaining he has been "calling for it for months".

He continued: "I cannot believe we have sat here for so long, I am angry."

Read more: 'Omicron is in retreat': Javid says we'll live with Covid like flu as Plan B scrapped

Lord Rose, who is in his 70s, said he has been going to work throughout the pandemic.

He has been struck with the virus twice, and has had all three of his coronavirus jabs.

He told Nick: "I cannot believe we have a nation sitting at home now cowered by this government, because they are fearful of this virus.

"It is something we have to now live with."

Lord Rose also spoke about fears of surging living costs across the UK, as he told listeners to "forget coronavirus".

He said the cost of the living crisis and inflation rising is the "next crisis on the horizon".

"Forget about Covid. Been there, seen it, done it, had the t-shirt," he told Nick.

"The real next thing is looking after the welfare of people as we go forward because some people are going to be seriously affected by this economic squeeze."

He told Nick he remembers what it was like to work in a high inflation environment and admitted it is "not going to be easy", adding he believes it will last more than 18 months.

"I work in the consumer sector, as you know, but forget about just retail, any other sector that we are working in, whether it's in travel, consumer, hospitality, raw materials, all prices are going up."

Read more: Govt has 'no plan' and 'no ideas' for how to fix UK's future, says Blair

Lord Rose's comments come after Plan B measures to curb the spread of Omicron were axed on Wednesday with work from home advice ditched immediately.

The Prime Minister told MPs in the Commons that work-from-home guidance would be dropped immediately and rules on face coverings in classrooms would also be scrapped in England from Thursday.

Other measures including the requirement to wear face masks on public transport and in shops will end next Thursday.

The legal requirement for people with coronavirus to self-isolate will also be allowed to lapse when the regulations expire on March 24, and that date could be brought forward.

Read more: Boris Johnson and Carrie's baby daughter Romy hit 'quite badly' by Covid

The move could help appease Mr Johnson's Tory critics at a time when the Prime Minister has been under pressure over Downing Street parties.

It comes after Covid infection levels fell in most parts of the UK for the first time since early December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Mr Johnson said that while there are some places where cases are likely to continue rising, including in primary schools, scientists believed "it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally".

But senior medics have criticised the decision as "not guided by data", while teachers' leaders have branded the end of mask mandates in schools "premature".

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chairman of the British Medical Association (BMA) council, said scrapping Plan B measures at such a pace "risks creating a false sense of security" with the NHS still under crippling pressure.

"This decision clearly is not guided by the data," he said.

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