London Covid infection rate at “tipping point”, Sadiq Khan warns

Conrad Duncan

Labour mayor Sadiq Khan has warned that London is at a “tipping point” in the second coronavirus wave – and could face the toughest Tier 3 restrictions within days due to rising infection rates.

The mayor of London unveiled a package of enhanced measures today, including increased community testing and additional ‘Covid marshals’ to engage with residents, as part of efforts to curb a recent rise in Covid-19 cases.

It was reported last night that London is expected to enter Tier 3 on December 19th, with one MP who was on a call with health minister Helen Whately telling Sky News that it felt like the decision had been “pretty much made”.

Khan said: “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.”

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the percentage of people testing positive for Covid-19 increased in London between November 29th and December 5th, after a drop towards the end of November.

The ONS found that all other regions of England had seen their positivity rates decrease over the period except London and the East of England, where there were early signs of an increase in Covid cases.

Under Tier 3 rules, hospitality venues in London, such as bars, pubs and restaurants, would be forced to close except for takeaway, delivery and click and collect services, while indoor entertainment venues would also be shut.

Khan’s additional measures unveiled today will be focused on the worst-affected areas in the capital, with support from ten extra mobile testing units and 40 permanent and 35 mobile test centres using lateral flow tests.

The plan will also see up to 30 additional police officers provided to the boroughs of Westminster, Camden and Hammersmith and Fulham for this weekend and additional signage on high streets to remind residents of rules.

Khan has also called for more support for those told to self-isolate via a broadening of the eligibility criteria for self-isolation payments and increasing payments for Londoners to reflect the higher cost of living in the capital.

Chair of London Councils Georgia Gould said hospitality businesses had done a “magnificent job” during the pandemic but officials were calling on them to make an extra effort this weekend to stop the rise in cases.

The council leader said: “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.”

The government announced today that staff, students and families in secondary schools and colleges in parts of north-east London, south Essex and Kent were being urged to get tested for Covid even if they do not have symptoms.

The London boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Hackney and the City, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest will receive additional testing from today in an attempt to drive down infection rates in the capital.

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