Make face masks compulsory outdoors and shut places of worship to ‘save lives’, Sadiq Khan tells Boris Johnson

‘Restrictions need to be much tighter, given the transmissibility of the new variant of Covid’, letter to PM says

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 13 January 2021 07:19 GMT
The Mayor of London declared ‘a major incident’ last week - warning the pandemic threatened to ‘overwhelm’ hospitals
The Mayor of London declared ‘a major incident’ last week - warning the pandemic threatened to ‘overwhelm’ hospitals (PA)

Face masks must be compulsory outdoors and places of worship shut to “save the NHS and Londoners’ lives”, Sadiq Khan has told Boris Johnson.

Click-and-collect services should be banned, more ‘non-essential’ shops closed and numbers at weddings and funerals cut, a joint plea by the Mayor of London and town halls also suggests.

Their letter to the prime minister argues that people may be “largely complying with the current restrictions”, but warns: “They are not tight enough.

“Given the epidemic is worse than it was in March, and the pressure on our hospitals is higher, the restrictions need to be much tighter, particularly given the transmissibility of the new variant of Covid.”

And it adds, of the tougher measures proposed: “If they are not introduced as a matter of urgency then we fear that the transmission of the virus will continue to spread across the capital, putting unsustainable strain on our NHS and public services.

 “We urge you to take swift action or Londoners health and the economy will both suffer immeasurably as a result.”

The action plan comes as ministers mull tougher restrictions, including a possible ban on exercising with a friend and closing more workplaces, including estate agents.

However, at the Downing Street press conference, Priti Patel came out against a further crackdown, arguing “the rules are firm in terms of staying at home”.

"The rules are tough enough. You've already heard 45,000 fixed-penalty notices have been issued, just in the recent time since we've been in this pandemic,” the Home Secretary said.

Ms Patel was repeatedly asked by the rules were laxer than last March – despite the new Covid-19 strain being more virulent – but gave no answer.

In contrast, the joint letter sent by Mr Khan and London Councils calls for:

* The closure of places of worship – as in the first lockdown.

* Mandatory face masks “outside of the home” –  “including in supermarket queues, on high streets and other outdoor places that may be crowded”.

* An urgent review of “what is currently classed as ‘essential retail’”.

* Stricter guidance to ensure retailers prevent “unsafe queues, crowding or mixing” – with a ban on click-and-collect services from large non-essential retail chains.

* Stronger restrictions on the size of weddings, receptions, wakes, funerals and burials.

The letter adds: “Tighter restrictions are necessary if we are to contain the virus, reduce pressure on the NHS and the emergency services and save Londoners’ lives.”

The further crackdown should be accompanied by higher payments “for Londoners who need to self-isolate and are not able to work” and more asymptomatic testing for key workers.  

On Tuesday, a total of 45,533 new infections were reported in the latest 24-hour period – and a further 1,243 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

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