British ministers hold first face-to-face cabinet in months


LONDON, July 21 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was holding his first face-to-face cabinet meeting of top ministers since March 17 on Tuesday, underlining his push to encourage others to go back to work and boost an economy hurt by the coronavirus crisis.

The weekly cabinet meeting inside Johnson's Downing Street office was ditched when the COVID-19 crisis threatened to run out of control. Johnson, his health minister and other top officials all caught the virus early in the pandemic.

But in recent weeks, Johnson has called on people to return to their workplaces, concerned that the economy, already poised for recession, could be crushed over the long term by a lockdown that has kept millions at home for several months.

Supplied with hand sanitizer and individual bottles of water, ministers were asked to attend a socially-distanced meeting in a larger room inside the foreign office rather than the traditional cabinet room in Downing Street.

Several were seen walking to the foreign office, just across the road from the prime minister's Downing Street residence, after weeks of the meetings being held via video conference.

Johnson has pushed ahead with easing the lockdown, lifting advice from next month to avoid public transport -- one of the main reasons deterring people to return to work -- while encouraging workers to use alternative means where possible.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Piper; editing by William James)

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