London Tier 3 warning as Covid cases rise across capital

8 December 2020, 07:37 | Updated: 8 December 2020, 16:37

People outside a bar in Soho, London.
People outside a bar in Soho, London, where hospitality would be forced to close if moved into Tier 3. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

Londoners are being told to follow social distancing rules or face a “devastating” surge in cases, with the Health Secretary refusing to rule out forcing the capital to be placed into Tier 3 restrictions.

The latest data shows the number of new coronavirus cases increased in three quarters of London’s boroughs, for the seven days to December 3.

Government officials are due to review England’s tiered restrictions on December 16 with some public health experts saying London’s tier may need to be reconsidered.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has called on Londoners to remember the virus is about and suggested tighter restrictions could be introduced “later this month” if cases surge.

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In Tier 3 areas all bars, restaurants and indoor entertainment venues must close.

A spokesperson for the mayor said: "If we begin to act like this virus has gone away we could see a devastating further surge in cases at a time of year when our NHS is already under enough pressure.

"The number-one way to look out for our loved ones and support local businesses in this festive season is to follow the rules and do all we can to avoid going back into tougher restrictions, later this month or any time in the future."

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Speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Health Secretary Matt Hancock also called on Londoners to "stick by the rules and not push the boundaries".

"The case numbers are going up in parts of London, in parts of Essex, in parts of Kent," Mr Hancock explained.

"We know what happens when case numbers go up: sadly more people end up in hospital and more people end up dying.

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"We have got to stick at it and we have got to keep this virus suppressed while we get the rollout [of the vaccine] going.

"My message to everybody in London is please respect the restrictions; respect what needs to be done; keep yourself and your family and your community and your city safe.”

The interventions follow chaotic scenes on London’s high streets over the weekend, as crowds hit the high streets for Christmas shopping.

“My message to Londoners is please return to our shops but return safely. You have got to shop safe, shop locally and shop London,” Mr Khan told Sky News.

“It is really important we don’t inadvertently act in a way that leads to a surge in this virus.

“If London was to go into Tier 3 it would be catastrophic to those industries already really, really crippling under the pandemic.”

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Ahead of the weekend, the Public Health Regional Director for London, Professor Kevin Fenton, had described the capital as being in a "delicate situation".

"If we want to avoid Tier 3 restrictions it is vital we all keep the risk of transmission down by strictly following the rules," he tweeted.

Professor Paul Hunter, from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, has also told the Telegraph that the tier allocation for London may have to be reconsidered.

Mr Hunter said: "There were more cases at the end of lockdown than at the start in London."

He added: "If cases in London were rising even during a national lockdown then we do need to reconsider the tier allocation in these areas. Whether across the region or at the local authority level is open to debate."

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The latest figures show that Havering in east London has the highest coronavirus rate in the capital, with 898 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 3 - the equivalent of 346 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up from 268.5 per 100,000 people in the seven days to November 26.

Read more: Covid-19 crisis in numbers: LBC brings you the stats you need to know

Although cases are rising in London, a majority of local authority areas saw a fall in case rates in the latest figures.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "Tiering decisions are based on a range of criteria including how quickly case rates are going up or down, cases in the over 60s, pressure on the NHS and local circumstances.

"The Government will review the tiering allocations every 14 days and areas will move up or down the tiers based on these indicators from local areas."