Scrap social distancing, says UK MarketAxess boss

Scrapping social distancing requirements could boost economic growth, according to the UK boss of electronic trading platform MarketAxess.

Christophe Roupie, who also runs the financial technology company’s Europe, the Middle East and Africa and Asia-Pacific businesses, told Financial News that client meetings and the benefits of bringing MarketAxess staff back to their offices would both be hindered if social distancing guidelines remain in place. 

“We are not really going back to the office, if we still need to social distance,” he said. “That’s something that if it goes away… then we are in a much better place.”

The current coronavirus restrictions were “just not aligned to have meetings”, he said, adding that the feedback from clients participating in socially-distanced meetings was “not that great”. 

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“There can be times when you come into the office, you don’t go into any floors, you go into the meeting rooms, you have social distancing between everybody, you wear the mask, and honestly, the feedback was that the experience is not that great,” he said. 

His comments come as UK policymakers are preparing to publish the results of a weeks-long review into the country’s social distancing guidelines. 

The current rules state that people should stay two metres apart from individuals not in their households or support bubbles. As part of its social distancing review, the government has been reported to be considering if the rules should be changed to recommend people stay “one metre plus” apart and whether or not to remove other Covid rules, such as requirements around wearing face masks. 

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It is set to be published today ahead of the government’s plans to lift England’s remaining Covid restrictions on July 19. 

The timing is awkward, however. The UK is battling to contain the spread of the more virulent Indian strain of Covid-19. Cases of the virus jumped 74% in the week to 2 July to total 157,675, according to government data

Roupie was not optimistic of a return to normalcy. “I think we are quite a long way away from getting back some kind of normality,” he said. “I think that we will start to get back to normality sometime in 2022, not before, there are too many risks over the summer right now… because of [football tournament] Euros 2020, because of the Olympic Games, there are too many risks.”

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email Lucy McNulty

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