London faces 'tipping point' in Covid fight as Mayor unveils new measures

11 December 2020, 07:25

Shoppers on Oxford Street in London on the first weekend following the end of the second national lockdown
Shoppers on Oxford Street in London on the first weekend following the end of the second national lockdown. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has warned the capital faces a "tipping point" in the fight against Covid-19 ahead of restrictions being reviewed next week.

He has called on Londoners to work together with local leaders and organisations to help tackle the spread of the virus as the city attempts to turn the rising tide of case numbers.

It was revealed on Thursday that London has the highest coronavirus rate in England, with infection rates in the city at 191.8 per 100,000 people for the week of 30 November to 6 December.

Read more: Mass testing rolled out at secondary schools for worst-hit areas of London, Kent and Essex

Read more: Welsh Government 'planning second firebreak lockdown from 28 December'

However, infections have plateaued across the rest of the country and fallen in some parts.

The Mayor has been working closely with local authorities, Public Health England, the NHS, the Met Police and other local partners on implementing additional measures to try to stem the rise in cases in the worst-affected areas including Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, and Waltham Forest.

In addition to testing in secondary schools announced by the Government yesterday, further plans were agreed at a meeting of the Mayor and London Council’s Group Leaders, including:

- More community testing, supported by 10 extra mobile testing units plus 40 permanent and 35 mobile lateral flow test centres.

- Increased engagement with residents, supported by extra Met police officers, Covid marshalls, Local Authority engagement officers and enhanced TfL enforcement on mask-wearing.

- Up to 30 additional officers from Westminster, Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham to provide on the ground capacity this weekend.

- More communications activity, including additional Hands-Face-Space signage in high streets and shopping centres.

The Mayor and the Chair of London Councils are also calling for extra support from the Government to best tackle the current rise in cases.

This includes getting London testing levels to above the England average (and higher in areas of highest prevalence) by providing additional capacity for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing.

They are also calling for more support for those needing to self-isolate, such as broadening the criteria for eligibility for Self-Isolation Payments and increasing the payment to reflect the cost of living in London.

Mr Khan, said: “Londoners have made monumental sacrifices this year in order to keep each other safe and protect our NHS.

"While the rollout of the vaccine this week may feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel, my message is clear – we still have a long winter ahead of us and we must all continue to play our part to keep ourselves and others safe.

“It is good news that the Government has listened to what London leaders have been asking for – we need more testing in our worst hit boroughs to help tackle the spread of the virus.

"I have discussed our concerns with the Health Secretary and Community’s Secretary including the particularly concerning rise in cases in secondary school children.

“Nobody wants the capital to face Tier 3 restrictions - it would be catastrophic for our pubs, bars, restaurants and culture venues - but with cases rising we are now at a tipping point, which is why we all have a responsibility to do everything we can to get on top of the virus by following the rules.”

Cllr Georgia Gould, Chair of London Councils, said: “London’s shops, bars, restaurants and hospitality industry businesses have done a magnificent job throughout the pandemic to make their premises Covid-safe. We are calling on them to make an extra effort this weekend to help stop the rising case rate in London.

“If we don’t all act together to stop the spread of the virus we risk undoing the sacrifices and work of the last few months and putting lives and livelihoods at risk. New restrictions could come in as early as next week, if cases continue to rise at current rates.

“We are urging people to be extra careful this weekend and during the festive period. We need to work together to save lives and keep London’s businesses going. I ask anyone who is struggling with following restrictions – for example if they can’t afford to miss work to self-isolate – to contact their local council for help available.

“If you are planning to head out this weekend please wear a mask and try to plan ahead. If there is a less busy time that you can do your shopping, it will be much safer for you, other shoppers and retailers.”