Around 9 million Londoners are among eight areas banned from meeting indoors from midnight on Friday, it has been confirmed.
Health secretary Matt Hancock announced in a statement this morning that the capital has been reclassified from ‘medium’ tier 1 restrictions to ‘high’ tier 2 measures.
The other seven places which have been moved up into the second tier are Barrow and Furness, Chesterfield, Elmbridge in Surrey, Erewash, Essex, North East Derbyshire and York.
This means those living in these areas will be banned from mixing with other households indoors, but meeting outside is allowed as long as the national ‘rule of six’ is observed.
People are also asked to only make essential journeys and not travel too far outside the area in which they live unless it is absolutely necessary.
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Mr Hancock told the Commons: ‘In London, infections rates are on a steep upward path, with the number of cases doubling every 10 days.
‘We know from the first peak that the infection can spread fast and put huge pressures on the NHS, so we must act now to prevent the need for tougher measures later on.’
He added: ‘I want to take a moment to thank all those involved for their exemplary hard work.
‘And to Londoners, and all who work in our great capital, I want to say thank you for what you’ve done to suppress the virus once, we now all need to play our part in getting the virus under control once again.
‘And I know the sacrifices this means. But I know that if we work together, we can defeat this.’
He said the changes come into effect at one minute past midnight on Saturday morning.
‘Responding to this unprecedented pandemic requires difficult choices. Some of the most difficult choices any Government has had to make in peacetime,’ the health secretary added.
‘We make these decisions with a heavy heart, with the sole aim of steering our nation through troubled waters.
‘Things will get worse before they get better, but I know that there are brighter skies and calmer seas ahead, that the ingenuity of science will find a way through.
‘Until then we must come together, because we all have a part to play in defeating this dreadful disease.’
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, told the London Assembly this morning the decision was based on ‘expert public health and scientific advice’ about what is necessary to save lives in the city.
‘In addition to the restrictions already in place, this would mean different households in London not being allowed to mix indoors,’ he said.
‘Nobody wants to see more restrictions – but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners lives by myself, London council leaders and by ministers.
‘I must warn Londoners that we’ve got a difficult winter ahead. But – just as we’ve always done throughout our city’s great history – I know we’ll get through this dark time by pulling together.’
Mr Khan also backed calls for a temporary national ‘circuit breaker’ to stem the spread of the disease.
‘Given how far the virus has already been allowed to spread, and given the Government’s complete failure to get a working test, trace and isolate system in place, I believe we also need action on a national scale – just as the Government’s own scientific advisers have recommended,’ he added.
‘This could 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.’
The average infection rate across the whole of London is 94.15 cases per 100,000 people, according to the most recent Department of Health data.
More than 12 boroughs have seen their cases rise to more than 100 per 100,000 people – which is the threshold to move an area into the second tier of restrictions.
At the higher end of the scale Richmond upon Thames has 140, Hackney and City of London have 133 and Ealing has 133 in the week to October 8.
Areas in the south, including Croydon (70), Bromley (67) and Sutton (64) have the lowest numbers of infections.
Although cases have soared, data shows hospitalisations for Covid-19 in London have barely risen over the past month. The figure stands at around 300 whereas 5,000 infected patients were treated by NHS doctors in the capital during the first wave in April.
London is still well behind a number of areas in the North, where increased case numbers are beginning to translate into hospitalisations. For example, a councillor warned yesterday that Liverpool’s intensive care wards are reportedly running at 95% capacity.
London is thought to be around four weeks behind the North West.
But it is thought the city’s figures are being skewed upwards by the inclusion of positive test results of students studying in other cities across the country.
There are also reports Prime Minister Boris Johnson is working on plans for a short ‘circuit breaker’ national lockdown over the half-term break if the three-tier system fails.
Northern Ireland declared a four-week circuit breaker lockdown yesterday.
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