Sadiq Khan accuses Number 10 of 'breathtaking ignorance' over coronavirus

2 March 2020, 19:48

Sadiq Khan has accused Downing Street of "breathtaking ignorance" after not being invited to a Cobra meeting about coronavirus.

Speaking to LBC's Matthew Thompson, the London Mayor said it was "just a bit odd" that he wasn't invited to the meeting, and thought this was the kind of issue that needed party politics to be put aside.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister had earlier said he was not invited because the meeting on the developing issue was because it was a "national meeting" and London is "local".

But Mr Khan said: "If anyone thinks London is local then they clearly have a breathtaking ignorance about our city and the relevance to our continent.

"We have Heathrow Airport and Gatwick Airport basically serving our city; we've got Eurostar serving our city.

"We've got major sporting events, major cultural events taking place in our city.

"Five million people use our Underground each day more than 6 million use our buses everyday.

"When it comes to preparing and planning for eventualities a sensible government would make sure we're on the table and who knows maybe London might have a good idea or two."

Sadiq Khan spoke to LBC about not being invited to a Cobra meeting about coronavirus
Sadiq Khan spoke to LBC about not being invited to a Cobra meeting about coronavirus. Picture: LBC

Mr Khan also said he had been invited and attended previous Cobra meetings before, and said it would be "really pathetic" if this was a political snub.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson held the first of a series of Cobra meetings amid criticism he has not taken personal control of the country's response to the outbreak of cases.

During the meeting he warned it is likely to spread even further - with the total number of confirmed UK cases standing at 39.

The number earlier today had reached 40, but a clinician at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre in Northwood, Middlesex, had been confirmed positive but has since tested negative, East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health confirmed the total figure for the UK had dropped to 39 as a result.

Four new cases - among people from Hertfordshire, south Devon and Kent - were announced on Monday. All had travelled recently to Italy, which is experiencing the biggest outbreak in Europe.

The Prime Minister warned earlier that more cases in the UK are likely as he urged people to wash their hands to the tune of Happy Birthday.

Boris Johnson chaired a Cobra meeting today about the escalating crisis
Boris Johnson chaired a Cobra meeting today about the escalating crisis. Picture: PA

Speaking after an emergency Cobra meeting where ministers discussed a "battle plan" to be published on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said the spread of Covid-19 was likely to become "more significant" for the UK in coming days.

He said: "We have also agreed a plan so that if and when it starts to spread, as I'm afraid it looks likely it will, we are in a position to take the steps necessary to contain the spread of the disease as far as we can, and to protect the most vulnerable."

The PM said decisions to close schools and ban mass gatherings would only be taken on scientific advice, adding: "The most important thing for people to understand is that (measures) will be guided by scientific advice.

"All four nations of the UK and the chief medical officers are involved in this and they will be helping us to take key decisions on when and how to take protective steps.

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"We cannot forget that the single most useful thing that we can all do to support the NHS is to wash our hands, two times to Happy Birthday, with hot water.

"It's very important that people should continue (doing) that and they should go about business as usual."

Mr Johnson said he believes it is "much more likely than not" that the UK will face a "challenge" from coronavirus in the coming weeks or months, and vowed to give the NHS everything it asks for to tackle the outbreak.