Plans to introduce a quarantine ring around the M25 to halt travel in and out of London are “within the government’s contain strategy”, Downing Street said today.
The admission came as the Prime Minister scrambles to curb a spike in infections across the country.
Boris Johnson is said to have held a “war game” session with chancellor Rishi Sunak last week to consider options to avert another nationwide lockdown that would hamper the UK’s economic recovery.
Plans reportedly being assessed include banning travel in and out of London with an M25 quarantine ring, as first reported by the Sunday Times.
The government could also put a stop to overnight stays and introduce “personalised risk scores” for people aged between 50 and 70.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesperson today confirmed the government is mooting plans to introduce a M25 “border point” – an effective quarantine.
“If you look at the contain strategy which we published just over two weeks ago it sets out putting in place restrictions on travel if there’s an area that’s particularly badly affected,” the spokesperson said.
“The contain strategy doesn’t mention specific locations but it does set out the power to restrict movements and potentially close down local transport networks. So it’s there — it’s contained in the document. It’s not a new thing.”
It comes after mayor of London Sadiq Khan today slammed the plans as “unacceptable”. He added that he had not been briefed on them but instead learned about them from the media.
In a terse letter addressed to the PM, Khan today said making such plans without including local leaders “is totally unacceptable and a clear affront to London and Londoners”.
The mayor accused Johnson of “riding roughshod” over locally elected officials, and said the approach would lead to worse outcomes for London and the country.
Responding to the mayor’s letter, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “We’ve informed the public and politicians that that has been a potential action we could take. But to be clear it’s not specific to London or anywhere else.”
The PM’s spokesperson refused to comment on whether the mayor was consulted on the plans.
It comes as new cases of coronavirus in England have spiked for the first time since April, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
ONS figures released on Friday showed there were around 4,200 new infections in the community per day in England between 20 July and 26 July.
The sharp spike caused the government to introduce fresh lockdown restrictions in virus hotspots in the north of England last Thursday.
People in Greater Manchester, East Lancashire and parts of West Yorkshire now cannot meet other households indoors, in a move described by health secretary Matt Hancock as “absolutely necessary”.
Last week, Boris Johnson said “clearly we now face the threat of a second wave in other parts of Europe.”
He added: “We must remain vigilant and continue to follow the official guidance to keep the virus under control and prevent any second wave.”