London to go into 'high' tier of lockdown from midnight on Friday

Millions of residents barred from meeting indoors

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Thursday 15 October 2020 19:14 BST
Sadiq Khan on London covid restrictions
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London is to go into Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions from midnight on Friday evening, barring the capital’s 9 million residents from meeting other households in their homes or other indoor spaces.

The escalation in controls over social and economic life is to be formally announced by health secretary Matt Hancock in a statement to the House of Commons at around 11.30am, when he is also expected to confirm that ministers have backed away from imposing tighter restrictions for Greater Manchester and Lancashire in the face of resistance from local leaders.

London mayor Sadiq Khan told the London Assembly that after a meeting with Mr Hancock this morning, he expected the move to Tier 2 to be confirmed later today.

After the capital goes into the the “high” Covid alert level, residents will be banned from socialising with anyone from outside their household or support bubble in any indoor setting, whether at home or in a public place.

They will be urged to make as few journeys as possible, though they will not be told to remain in their homes. Pubs, restaurants and shops will remain open, with the 10pm curfew for hospitality venues remaining in place. The “Rule of Six” limit on gatherings outside is unchanged.

Read more: Which lockdown tier am I in? How to work out which tier your area falls under 

Health minister Helen Whately informed London MPs of the change in a conference call early today.

But Boris Johnson’s plan to put  Greater Manchester and Lancashire in Tier 3 was shelved after mayor Andy Burnham and other local leaders made clear they would not accept it without an improved financial package for businesses and workers. Meanwhile, top Downing Street aide Sir Edward Lister spoke to MPs and civic leaders from Covid hotspots in the north of England in the hope of persuading them to accept a move to the toughest Tier 3 restrictions alongside Merseyside, with the closure of pubs, bars and other areas where residents come into close contact, like gyms.

But Boris Johnson’s plan to put  Greater Manchester and Lancashire in Tier 3 was shelved after mayor Andy Burnham and other local leaders made clear they would not accept it without an improved financial package for businesses and workers. 

London was initially placed in the Tier 1 “medium” alert level when Mr Johnson unveiled his English regional restrictions on Monday, while Manchester, Lancashire and high-infection areas in the northeast and  Yorkshire and Humber regions were given “high” alert Tier 2 status after resisting being put in the top bracket with the Liverpool City Region.

Mr Khan told the London Assembly that the capital was at “a critical moment” in the fight against coronavirus, with the virus “spreading rapidly in every corner of our city” and soon expected to reach an average 100 daily cases per 100,000.

He warned Londoners that they face “a difficult winter ahead” and repeated his call for a time-limited national circuit-breaker lockdown, which he said would “save thousands of lives, drive the virus down to manageable levels, and give the government more time to finally get a grip on its failing test and trace system”.

He said that in talks with Mr Hancock and local government secretary Robert Jenrick, he demanded more financial help for the city’s businesses, which had been “left reeling” from the first wave of the pandemic in the spring, when London took the brunt of infections.

Mr Khan said: “Nobody wants to see more restrictions. This is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners by myself, London council leaders, and by ministers.

“As part of our discussions I've also made clear to the government that we need more financial support for London businesses, workers and public services, as we face more restrictions. And I'll continue to make this case.

Restating his call for a circuit-breaker intervention, he said: "In London, we experienced the worst of Covid-19 back in the spring, thousands of lives were lost and our economy has been left reeling.

“We simply can't afford for the government to be slow to act again. The supposed choice between saving the economy and saving lives, between restrictions and freedoms is an entirely false one, because the later we take the necessary steps to slow the spread of the virus, the more severe these steps will have to be, and the longer they will have to last, in order to drive down infection rates.

“No matter how much some people want to pretend otherwise, and bury their heads in the sand, the truth is that the health crisis and the economic crisis are inextricably linked. That's why getting the virus under control is the only way we can both protect lives and our economy. There's simply no other option.”

The CBI’s director for London, Eddie Curzon, urged ministers to  deploy “whatever tolls they have at their disposal” to protect jobs and livelihoods in the capital.

“Businesses are fully aware that public health must come first and have been doing everything they can to keep staff and customers safe, whether in pubs, shops, or offices," said Mr Curzon.

“Getting a grip on rising infection rates now can help to maintain confidence and avoid further restrictions in the months ahead.

“But this news will come as a severe setback to businesses across London – particularly in the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors.

“While the chancellor has taken bold and decisive action to support jobs and companies’ cashflow, London businesses still remain under extreme pressure. It’s vital that the government, the mayor’s office and London’s councils continue to work effectively together and use whatever tools they have at their disposal to protect jobs and livelihoods.”

Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq tweeted: "Concerning that coronavirus rates in Ealing have more than doubled in past week, propelling it to top borough in capital. 

“London goes into Tier 2 from midnight (on Friday) but not sure this tinkering is really enough. In line with Sage, to stop spreading like wildfire circuit breaker needed.”

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