Australians who have been working from home during the pandemic aren’t rushing back to the office as restrictions around the country begin to ease.

Property Council of Australia CEO Ken Morrison says office occupancy in major CBDs is still well below pre-COVID levels, and most building owners or managers don’t expect that to change for at least three months.

“We are now at a critical juncture for our CBD economies, which are big drivers of economic activity and support hundreds of thousands of jobs,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“While the rate of return to CBD offices Sydney has stepped up, it is still less than half. Melbourne is starting its journey out of lockdown, while the return in other CBDs has stalled well below their pre-COVID levels,” he said.

He welcomed recent decisions by the NSW and Victorian governments encouraging a return to workplaces.

“But we must keep the momentum going if we are to get our CBDs back to their pre-COVID levels of activity after the Christmas and New Year break,” Mr Morrison said.

“For every worker who returns to their office, that is more business for CBD cafes, restaurants, retail outlets and other service providers.”

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The Property Council wants National Cabinet to implement a roadmap to revitalise CBD economies, including:

* a direction to return to workplaces with the public service leading a return to normal workplaces.

* measures to boost confidence in public transport through increased capacity and hygiene measures as well as mandatory masks for commuters and incentives to encourage patronage.

* a review of physical distancing requirements on public transport and workplaces so that businesses can plan return to the office with confidence.

* a plan to restart migration next year, first with international students through an expanded quarantine program which could be expanded to include business migration and leisure travel.

AAP

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