Get test and trace working to save London's economy, Sadiq Khan urges

23 October 2020, 07:22 | Updated: 23 October 2020, 10:24

A closed tourist shop in central London. Sadiq Khan has warned the capital will lose out on nearly £11bn
A closed tourist shop in central London. Sadiq Khan has warned the capital will lose out on nearly £11bn. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Sadiq Khan has renewed calls for a "functioning" test and trace system that could help kick start London's economy amid warnings over an £11bn drop in tourist cash for the capital.

The Mayor of London demanded the Government enacts a "functioning" Test and Trace system to help the economy reopen safely.

"The Government needs to get its act together and provide a functioning test and trace system so the economy can reopen safely," he said.

It comes after Boris Johnson admitted his 'frustrations' over the system when asked by LBC.

Mr Khan warned of a drop in tourist spending of £10.9 billion due to the pandemic - a far lower total than the amount of spending lost due to the large decrease in commuters traveling into the city.

Mr Khan said the data in a study he commissioned showed new bail-outs announced by the Prime Minister and Chancellor on Thursday are only "a sticking plaster solution", with the collapse of London tourism to leave many hospitality, retail and leisure business without hope of returning to normal for "many months to come".

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City Hall analysis of forecasts by Visit Britain showed goods and services revenue from foreign tourists in the city would drop £7.4 billion through the year, while domestic tourists would spend £3.5 billion less.

"This analysis shows the eye-watering drop in the money spent by visitors in the economic and cultural heart of the capital - which is far greater than even the impact of fewer commuters travelling into the centre of the city each day," Mr Khan said in a statement.

"Clearly, this will mean many businesses are in danger of closing and many thousands of jobs will be at risk.

"I'm determined to do all I can to support London's economic recovery now, and in the years to come. But these sectors won't be able to sustain pre-pandemic levels of employment until tourists return in significant numbers - so Government must act swiftly to prevent widespread job losses and the financial hardship this will bring for Londoners, many of whom are already struggling to make ends meet."

"We also urgently need an extension of the business rates holiday to next year along with more support for jobs beyond what the Chancellor announced this week and which truly reflects the scale of the problem."

Chair of the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions, Baroness Patience Wheatcroft, said: "Everyone in London knows someone who works in tourism and they know how decimated the industry is.

"We need specific help from the Government for our hospitality and tourism sectors to keep businesses afloat, keep people in their jobs and to market London to the UK domestic market, and to the world, so we can welcome back our inbound tourists when they are ready to return."

Mr Khan is also commissioning new research into Covid's impact on the so-called central activities zone (CAZ) - London's economic and cultural heart - to identify emerging trends across key sectors over the next few years and further.

Along with the drop in tourism and commuters, the CAZ has also been affected by changes in how Londoners spend their free time, Mr Khan said.

He has also urged the Government to scrap the 10pm curfew, which he argues became redundant when London and other parts of the country moved into Tier 2 and higher restrictions.