Sadiq Khan has urged millions of Londoners to “follow the rules” amid mounting fears the capital faces Tier 3 restrictions following a sharp spike in coronavirus cases.
The mayor of London today issued a plea for people in the capital not to lower their “guard”, as he appealed for Londoners to follow the current Tier 2 guidelines in the run-up to Christmas.
“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.”
It comes after the latest official data showed infections are on the rise in two-thirds of London boroughs.
Figures from Public Health England showed that London’s infection rate now stands at 169.6 per 100,000 — around 13 per cent higher than the national average.
Confirmed cases hiked by 47 per cent in Haringey in the week to 2 December, with many boroughs in east London also 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.
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.
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.
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.”
But business bodies yesterday warned that a move to Tier 3 would deliver a “killer blow” for businesses in the capital already struggling after the month-long lockdown.
“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… The prospect of London moving into Tier 3 would deliver a killer blow that many hospitality businesses simply wouldn’t recover from”.”
A recent study by Caterer.com showed that pent-up demand for pints over the festive period could inject as much as £15.9bn into London’s economy by New Year’s Day.
“The ever-changing tiered restrictions and the possibility of London being placed into Tier 3 would further devastate the hospitality industry,” said Neil Pattison, director at Caterer.com. “As well as damage to the sector, tighter restrictions will undoubtedly force many thousands of our talented hospitality workforce to look elsewhere for work.”