Streets of central London packed with thousands of Christmas shoppers amid Tier 3 warnings

13 December 2020, 07:44 | Updated: 14 December 2020, 15:03

Thousands took to the streets of central London
Thousands took to the streets of central London. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Thousands of people took to the streets of central London yesterday to do their Christmas shopping following warnings from the Mayor and police to respect the capital's coronavirus rules.

Breaking: London to enter Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions at 00:01 on Wednesday.

Sadiq Khan appealed directly to Londoners to keep a two-metre distance where possible and to wear masks, as he said it was "vital" to work together to tackle rising coronavirus cases in the city.

He posted online yesterday: "Lives and livelihoods really do depend on every Londoner continuing to follow the rules."

Read more: Sadiq Khan: Tier 3 would be 'catastrophic' for London's hospitality industry

Read more: No10 demands schools stay open despite Covid spike

But pictures of huge crowds on Oxford St and Regent street appear to show a lack of social distancing and large numbers of people not wearing face coverings.

London's Regent Street, which had been temporarily pedestrianised to aid with social distancing, was packed with thousands of shoppers. Surrounding streets including Carnaby St were also packed with people queuing outside shops.

The Mayor issued an alert for people to maintain social distancing
The Mayor issued an alert for people to maintain social distancing. Picture: PA

In a joint statement, Mr Khan and Cllr Rachael Robathan, leader of Westminster City Council, said a "key" part of helping businesses recover from the crisis was "ensuring we get this deadly virus under control".

"With cases rising in many parts of the capital, it is vital that we all work together to control its spread," the statement said.

"Otherwise we may face tougher restrictions, which would greatly harm shops in the West End, our hospitality sector and the whole of London's economy.

Shoppers on Oxford Street yesterday
Shoppers on Oxford Street yesterday. Picture: PA

"We are appealing directly to Londoners - when out shopping it is essential that you follow the rules."

They also advised avoiding travelling on public transport during rush hour and told people to walk and cycle "where you can".

"If you have symptoms - don't take a chance and don't go out. Self-isolate immediately and get a test," they added.

Regent Street was packed with shoppers yesterday
Regent Street was packed with shoppers yesterday. Picture: PA

"Businesses across London have worked really hard to make their premises Covid-safe - but we must all play our part in following the rules. So this weekend shop safe."

It is feared London coul be headed for Tier 3 restrictions, which would see hospitality settings closed except for takeaway. The first review of Tiers is due to be carried out on Wednesday.

Large crowds at Oxford Circus yesterday
Large crowds at Oxford Circus yesterday. Picture: PA

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics indicates the proportion of people testing positive for Covid-19 is estimated to have increased in London and possibly in eastern England, but decreased in all other regions.

Christmas shoppers on Carnaby street yesterday
Christmas shoppers on Carnaby street yesterday. Picture: PA

In an effort to tackle the spread in London, thousands of extra tests are being made available for schools in areas of concern.

NHS bosses today warned the prime minister that relaxing restrictions could trigger a third wave of coronavirus.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, NHS Providers urged "extreme caution" in moving any area of England to a lower tier.

The first review of England's tier allocation is due take place on Wednesday, two weeks after the three-tier system was brought in following the end of lockdown.

But areas should be moved into the highest tier of restrictions "as soon as this is needed, without any delay", according to the letter from NHS Providers, which represents hospital trusts in England.