People will be asked to work from home if they can, government minister Michael Gove has said, in a U-turn which deals a further blow to city centre-based operators.

Cabinet office minister Michael Gove described the latest change in restrictions as a “shift in emphasis” but unavoidable.

Gove told the BBC’s Today programme: “We are stressing that if it is safe to work in your workplace, if you are in a covid-secure workplace, then you should be there if your job requires it. But, if you can work from home you should.”

While saying that workplaces were now safer, he warned that social mixing contributes to the spread of the virus.

The advice contrasts sharply with a Boris Johnson-led drive urging workers to return back to their offices, to revive ailing high streets.

Food to go operators with a heavy presence in central London such as Pret have been particularly hard hit, announcing large scale redundancies.

Gove set out the latest changes to the government’s coronavirus advice after it was announced on Monday night that pubs, bars and restaurants in England will have to shut by 10pm from Thursday.

Gove said that the ‘rule of six’ was staying, as it was “simple, straightforward and well-understood”.