London risks being plunged into Tier 3 before Christmas as the latest official data showed infections are on the rise in two-thirds of boroughs.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan yesterday urged people in the capital to to “follow the rules” after Public Health England figures released earlier this week showed Covid-19 cases rising in 21 out of 32 of the capital’s boroughs.
“The number of cases in London are rising again and if we don’t all work together now we may face tougher restrictions across the capital,” said Khan.
“I urge all Londoners to follow the rules — for the good of the loved ones that we want to see over the festive period and to help all our local businesses who need our support. No-one wants to see a devastating further surge in cases or the need for more restrictions.”
The latest data showed confirmed cases hiked by 47 per cent in Haringey in the week to 2 December, with many boroughs in east London also being particularly affected.
Bromley saw infection rates rise 40 per cent in the last week of lockdown, while spikes of 25 per cent or more were recorded in Bexley, Hackney, Harrow, Kingston and Merton.
Cases are understood to be rising more sharply in the under-18s and over-60s than other age groups.
Redbridge yesterday overtook Ealing as the worst-affected borough from coronavirus, after recording a further 137 cases in the past 24 hours. It has now recorded 8,582 confirmed Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic.
Sam Tarry, Labour MP for Ilford South in Redbridge told City A.M the spike in cases was a “major concern just days after the lockdown ended”.
He added that it should “act as a warning shot across the bows to all those who think they’re out of the woods”.
“We have a long way to go and must continue to observe social distancing guidelines over the Christmas period to prevent us being forced into yet another lockdown which would be devastating for all those who live, work and run businesses… across Redbridge”.
Ministers and health officials are set to meet on 16 December to review tier allocations across the country — just over a week before Christmas Day.
There are fears London will be placed in Tier 3 next week, with the capital heading in the wrong direction on four of the five key tests used by the ministers to decide tier levels.
Across London as a whole, the case rate among the over 60s — a major metric for tier decisions — has risen from 110.3 per 100,000 in the week to November 26 to 122 per 100,000 up to 3 December.
Havering Council’s rate of infection catapulted to 379 per 100,000 yesterday — double the average for the whole of England.
Local restrictions are set to be eased between 23 and 27 December to allow for festive gatherings, which will see up to three households allowed to mix.
Under current Tier 2 restrictions in London, Liverpool and parts of the North, members of different households are not allowed to meet indoors, though they are allowed to abide by the rule of six in outdoor spaces.
Pubs and bars are only allowed to stay open if they serve a substantial meal alongside alcohol, with venues forced to shut at 11pm.
A move to Tier 3 would see a total ban on indoor and outdoor gatherings among different households, with all pubs, bars and restaurants forced to shutter.
“The risks associated with Christmas are huge, even without this rise,” said Dr Mike Gill, former regional director of public health for the south-east region.
“People should take steps to vastly reduce their contact. A tier-three lockdown will contribute to this very significantly. Otherwise you will see hospital admissions rise, and we know that a proportion of those who are hospitalised die.”
Professor Kevin Fenton, London director for Public Health England, told City A.M. the capital must “work together” to prevent a surge in cases.
“Covid-19 behaves like clockwork — the more contact we have with others, the higher the chance of us catching or spreading the virus,” he said. “If we want to keep infections down, every one of us needs to remain vigilant and follow the rules as we go about shopping, eating out or meeting friends outdoors.”
“We’ll need to work together to prevent a big surge in cases in London ahead of the festive period so we must all do our bit and limit the spread over the coming days and weeks.”
It comes as the UK’s leading hospitality bodies told City A.M. that placing London in Tier 3 would deliver a “killer blow” for thousands of businesses in the capital.
“Hospitality has continued to take on a disproportionate burden to allow other parts of the economy to reopen during this crisis,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality.
“These businesses have invested significant time, effort and money to create Covid-secure spaces, and they can play a role in keeping transmission rates down.”
Nicholls added that “the prospect of London moving into Tier 3 would deliver a killer blow that many hospitality businesses simply wouldn’t recover from”.