LONDON (Reuters) - Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday a furlough scheme created to retain jobs during the coronavirus pandemic was now keeping people in "suspended animation", and that the government instead wanted to get Britain back to work.
Questioned in parliament by opposition parties over whether he would extend the furlough scheme beyond its end-October deadline, Johnson said the programme "keeps them in suspended animation and prevents them from going to work. What we want to do is to get people back to work."
He said the government had turned the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and made clear his priority was now addressing the damage done to the economy by a virus that forced months of almost total shutdown.
Conscious too that many businesses in towns and cities have been hit by a lack of passing trade, he wants to convince sceptical workers and employers that it is safe to return to their offices and places of work.
"It's very important that we get people back into the workplace in a COVID-secure way, and ... that we do absolutely everything we can to give them confidence that it is a good idea to go back," Johnson said.
"An ounce of confidence... is worth a tonne of taxpayers' money."
(Reporting by William James, writing by Elizabeth Piper; editing by Stephen Addison)