London shouldn’t be in Tier 3, PM told, as Covid rate down across city – Evening Standard
ovid-19 cases are falling in 12 London boroughs, official figures reveal today, strengthening the case for the capital to be put into Tier 2 after lockdown.
They are down in a swathe of central London including Westminster, Camden, Islington and Lambeth, and are also declining for the capital as a whole in a sign that the second wave may possibly have already peaked in the city 10 days ago.
A further nine boroughs have seen rises of less than five per cent in the week to November 18, compared with the previous seven days, and could see falls in the number of confirmed cases within days. However, some areas including Enfield and Havering, are still seeing big increases in confirmed cases, which brings into question the one-size-fits-all tier for the capital.
Several Tory MPs are urging the Government to introduce tiers on a borough-by-borough basis but ministers have so far suggested this will not happen. The Government, however, would face a furious backlash from MPs and business chiefs if the capital is hit with draconian Tier 3 restrictions, which would “cripple” the hospitality sector and other firms in the run-up to Christmas.
Former Tory health minister Stephen Hammond, MP for Wimbledon, said: “There is no evidence that would support putting London into Tier 3. We all recognise we need to act responsibly to defeat the virus but strangling so many London small businesses would be wrong.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is also lobbying for London to be put in Tier 2. As the row erupted:
Former England football star Ian Wright welcomed plans to start allowing small numbers of fans back into stadiums as a positive “first step”.
Business leaders warned that Tier 2 would be a major blow for London’s battered economy but said Tier 3 would be a “disaster” .
The arts sector feared it will not be viable for many theatres to reopen even if they are in tiers 2 or 1.
Aviation bosses welcomed the reduction in the quarantine period for travellers returning to Britain from a fortnight to five days as “a start”.
Some Northern leaders have argued that their Covid infection rates are falling faster than London’s and that the capital gets special treatment. However, Sir Bob Neill, Conservative MP for Bromley and Chislehurst, said: “Tier 3 would be completely unacceptable (for London) and economically crippling.
“It should not be done to appease other parts of the country.”
Ministers may be swayed to put London into Tier 3 when they make the decision on Thursday because while the data suggests the spread of the disease may be easing, there might not be enough to show a consistent trend.
London Mayor Mr Khan said: “London going into Tier 2 next week would seem the right and sensible decision.”
He warned of the “hammer blow” to the hospitality sector in the capital if it has to remain closed until Christmas and beyond.
Kensington Tory MP Felicity Buchan said “Clearly the numbers just do not justify Tier 3 for London at all.”
London was put into Tier 2 in mid-October and lockdown before the disease started soaring out of control and so the capital has remained below a seven-day rate of 200 new cases per 100,000, with most places put into Tier 3 previously having had far worse infection rates.
While a growing number of people with Covid-19 are being admitted to London hospitals, admissions are still far below the peak in the first wave.
Latest figures show 1,469 people in hospital with coronavirus in the city, about 500 more than the start of this month but well below the peak of 4,813 on April 8.
There are 248 people on ventilators, which is 114 more than at the start of the month but less than a quarter of the peak number of 1,057 on April 10.
Health chiefs believed that the previous Tier 2 measures were working as there were growing signs that the rise in cases was flattening out and even starting to fall, with working from home thought to be a key factor.
However, cases then surged which is thought to have been down to more people socialising at half-term and in a “last hurrah” before lockdown was introduced. Latest figures show that the seven-day rate of new cases per 100,000 people has fallen from 199.4 on November 14 for the following four days and was at 193 on November 18.
The biggest decline has been in Islington with 353 cases in the week to November 18, down 81 (or 18.7 per cent), with a seven-day rate per 100,000 of 145.6. Richmond saw a drop of 17 per cent, Wandsworth 13.5 per cent, Camden 9.5 per cent, Westminster 8.7 per cent, Barnet 8.1 per cent, Hammersmith & Fulham eight per cent, Lambeth 3.5 per cent, Waltham Forest 3.2 per cent, Tower Hamlets 2.8 per cent, Sutton 0.6 per cent and Barking & Dagenham 0.4 per cent. As cases fall, Avi Shishandra, chef patron of Pali Hill restaurant in Fitzrovia, said: “If we are put in Tier 3, it would be total disaster.”
However, 20 boroughs are still seeing increases. The biggest rises are Havering on 1,005 cases in the week to November 18, up 202 (25.2 per cent) with a rate of 387.2, Bromley up 26.6 per cent, Hackney and City of London up 28 per cent, Merton up 30.9 and Enfield up 31.7 per cent.
Cabinet minister Grant Shapps braced some areas to be unhappy about the tier which they are allocated, which he stressed would be based on decisions taken on the scientific evidence, rather than getting into negotiations with community leaders as happened in the stand-off between the Government and Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We don’t want to, with this tier system this time, get into days or even weeks of protracted negotiation — the science is what it is, we all know how coronavirus spreads now, we all understand that we have to take these measures, as ghastly as they are, to protect each other’s health.”
If London were to end up in Tier 3, it would qualify for a Liverpool-style mass testing scheme.
Today’s figures were the first that include the period of the second national lockdown, which began on November 5.