Health experts say London should be put into the third tier of coronavirus restrictions as soon as possible or face a ‘terrible rise’ in infections over Christmas.
With cases increasing in the majority of boroughs, pressure is mounting on the Government to move the capital up a tier when the rules are next reviewed on December 16.
But one expert said the Government should act before then and make a decision on whether to enforce harsher restrictions on London ‘in the next 48 hours.’
Cabinet ministers and the Mayor Sadiq Khan have both claimed the city can still avoid tier three, if people follow the rules that are currently in place.
But with infection rates in some areas of London now double those of places that are already in tier three, it seems increasingly likely the city will be subject to stricter rules imminently.
Prof John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, told the Guardian that urgent action was needed.
He said the Government ‘needs to decide in the next 48 hours whether to move London into tier three otherwise they really risk a terrible situation for London, with deaths going up during the Christmas period.’
He added that the situation is getting so bad again, a ‘complete lockdown’ might be needed.
Havering in east London continues to be the capital’s worst affected borough with an infection rate of 319 per 100,000. The neighbouring boroughs of Redbridge and Dagenham have also been hit badly with infection rates of 295 and 299 per 100,000 respectively.
But Richmond, in south west London has an infection rate far lower of 79 per 100,000 – posing a problem for decision makers over whether to enforce blanket restrictions on the whole city.
Bristol, which has been in tier three for the last week, has an infection rate of 141 per 100,000 while Coventry’s is only 134 per 100,000.
Going into tier three would mean the closure of all pubs and restaurants apart from takeaways in London and a ban on all fans at sporting fixtures, among other measures.
Kevin Fenton, the director of public health for London, has warned cases are rising among the over 60s – the group most at risk of serious infection – and hospital admissions also appear to be going up.
The Mayor Sadiq Khan said: ‘The number of cases in London are rising again and if we don’t all work together now, we may face tougher restrictions across the capital.
‘Londoners have worked incredibly hard to bring down the number of cases before, but we must not risk undoing all the sacrifices that have been made by lowering our guard and allowing cases to rise further ahead of Christmas.’
He added: ‘No one wants to see a devastating further surge in cases or the need for more restrictions, so we must act now and do all we can to protect each other and the NHS.’
Some have claimed London is receiving preferential treatment from the Government and is being kept out of the toughest restrictions because of its importance to the UK economy.
Michael Gove denied this on Sky News this morning. He said: ‘I don’t think that’s true…there are variations across London, borough by borough, but we get advice from the Joint Bio Security Centre and those who are monitoring – not just the incidents of the virus – but also the pressure on the NHS and we do keep these things under review.
‘But of course what we want to do is see areas – if we possibly can – either stay in their current tier or move down a tier.’
Asked whether he was saying London is not about to move up a tier, Mr Gove said ‘It’s not my personal judgment.’
Professor Ashton told the Guardian the Government shouldn’t wait until December 16 to put London in the toughest tier as this will be ‘too late.’
He said: ‘It would be exactly what [the Government] has done throughout this [pandemic], which is to make these decisions one or two weeks too late.
‘If they want people to feel that they have got some semblance of Christmas, then they are going to have to be decisive for once.’
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