Mayor calls for secondary schools to close early for Christmas as London faces Tier 3

14 December 2020, 06:00 | Updated: 14 December 2020, 10:29

There are concerns over the rise in Covid cases in the capital
There are concerns over the rise in Covid cases in the capital. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Sadiq Khan has asked the government to consider closing secondary schools in London for Christmas as early as tomorrow amid fears the capital will be plunged into Tier 3 this week.

The Mayor said the rise in cases in the capital is "deeply concerning" and requires further Government action to be brought under control.

He wrote to Boris Johnson on Sunday requesting an immediate increase in Covid-19 testing provision across the capital in response to the rising number of infections.

He has also asked for a compensation scheme to be put in place for businesses ahead of any further restrictions being imposed on the city.

He warned that moving London from Tier 2 into Tier 3 would have a "catastrophic" economic impact on businesses and put "hundreds of thousands of livelihoods at stake".

READ MORE: Thousands of Christmas shoppers descend on central London

The Government said it will review all tiers in England on December 16.

It comes after a weekend in which central London was packed with thousands of Christmas shoppers, many of whom were not wearing masks and who found themselves in situations where it was impossible to maintain social distancing.

Mr Khan said: "The surge in coronavirus cases across our capital is deeply concerning.

"I am calling on the Government to urgently provide additional support to get the spread under control, save lives and livelihoods and ensure our NHS is not overwhelmed this winter.

Sadiq Khan has asked for more testing and business support for London
Sadiq Khan has asked for more testing and business support for London. Picture: PA

"Increased testing is key to this, which is why I want to see regular asymptomatic testing extended to all those unable to work from home and to students and staff at London's secondary schools, sixth-form college and FE (further education) colleges."

Mr Khan said there had been "significant" coronavirus outbreaks among 10 to 19-year-olds in the capital, and that Government must consider asking schools and colleges to close early ahead of Christmas and reopen later in January.

He said all schools and colleges across London should be given "priority testing" from today and Tuesday.

He was also reported by The Daily Telegraph to be pushing for the capital's schools to close from Tuesday, with Monday being the last day for the term, four days earlier than scheduled. Mr Khan is also advocating the extension of the winter break by a week till January 11, the paper said.

Face coverings should also be made mandatory in busy outdoor public spaces given the increase in Christmas shoppers over the coming weeks, he added.

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Mr Khan said: "Time is running out to get the virus under control in our city which is why I urge the Government to heed my call and provide us with the extra support we desperately need."

In his letter to the Prime Minister, which was jointly signed by London Councils chair Georgia Gould, Mr Khan said the seven-day case rate had risen in 32 local authority areas in the capital compared to the previous week.

There were also 17 boroughs where the seven-day rate exceeded 200 cases per 100,000 people.

According to the latest figures, the borough of Havering has the highest coronavirus rate in London, with 1,314 new cases recorded in the seven days to December 9 - the equivalent of 506.3 cases per 100,000 people.

This is up from a rate of 321.3 in the seven days to December 2.

The figures have been calculated by the PA news agency, based on Public Health England data published on December 13 on the Government's coronavirus dashboard.

Speaking about support for businesses in the city, Mr Khan said: "Should the Government decide to move London to further restrictions, current support is insufficient to keep many businesses and the self-employed afloat.

"The Christmas and new year period provides a huge part of annual takings for the hospitality, culture and events industries, and the period this year was likely to be the difference between businesses surviving the pandemic and failing."

Mr Khan requested that a compensation scheme is in place for all lost income during the Christmas period "based on last year's returns".

"For new businesses, compensation should be based on estimates of income using data for similar firms," he said in the letter.