Writing exclusively for City A.M., Mayor of London Sadiq Khan says he can “barely contain his anger at the confusion and chaos” sowed by Downing Street’s Christmas promises
The last-minute announcement of tougher restrictions to control the spread of Covid-19 over Christmas is a bitter blow for millions of Londoners.
Our city faces the toughest Christmas since the Second World War and we will all need to pull together in true London spirit to get through this difficult period. I have no doubt that we will.
Businesses that have already suffered so much this year face an even tougher few weeks at the worst possible time. Family get togethers have been cancelled at the very last minute. Long-planned dinners will go uncooked. And many Londoners will now have to spend the Christmas period alone.
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That’s not to say these new restrictions aren’t necessary – sadly, they are. The virus is spreading very quickly as a result of the new, more infectious strain. London has more cases of the virus than anywhere else in England. NHS and public health officials are extremely worried. Hospitals are stretched and our intensive care capacity is being pushed to its limits.
I urge all Londoners to follow the new Government rules very closely. Just as we did in March, we must now do everything we can to protect our NHS and prevent more deaths. It would be such a tragedy to lose more people to this disease when the vaccine is being rolled out across our city and those lives could be saved so soon. Now is certainly not the time to take unnecessary risks.
This is what the new Tier 4 means: There can be no Christmas bubbles like there will be in some other parts of the UK. Non-essential businesses must close. We must all stay at home unless it’s for work that can’t be done from home, childcare, education or exercise. We cannot travel outside of London. And those who are clinically vulnerable should especially limit the time they spend outside their homes.
It didn’t have to be this way. Like many Londoners, I can barely contain my anger at the chaos and confusion that the Government has caused or at ministers’ continued failure to get a handle on the pandemic. This whole situation could have been avoided if the Prime Minister had not made irresponsible promises to the public and raised expectations about what we could happen over the Christmas period.
On their own, these new restrictions may well not be enough to get the virus under control. We need the Government vastly to increase mass testing as a matter of urgency. Face coverings should be made mandatory in all busy outdoor public places.
Meanwhile, businesses and the self-employed need greater financial support. The government must compensate businesses for wasted Christmas stock and lost revenue over this busy festive period. Current levels of funding are woefully insufficient and make it harder for people to follow the rules. A package of full pay for those who have to self-isolate is also crucial.
In this most difficult of moments we must remember that there is at least some light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccines that are being rolled out to vulnerable Londoners as we speak will defeat this virus. It’s up to all of us to do the right thing now and protect the most vulnerable people in our society until we reach the better times that lie ahead.
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