‘Needless deaths’ will be suffered this winter unless an urgent circuit-breaker lockdown is imposed in London, says Southwark Council’s leader.
Councillor Kieron Williams said he backed Labour leader Keir Starmer’s call for a full lockdown this month, arguing it will save lives and save Christmas.
He told the News on Tuesday night: “With positive cases rising at worrying speed in Southwark and across London, I’m calling on the government to urgently implement a circuit breaker.
“It’s imperative that we follow scientific advice without delay, or we will be risking people’s health.
“There is no way to dress up the facts here – we are at a critical point and without immediate action people in Southwark will needlessly die.
“I urge the government to follow SAGE’s advice and implement a circuit breaker this month.
“I know what a worrying time this is for our residents and businesses, but a short period of tighter restrictions could be less painful to the local economy and to families than something which essentially draws the process out for longer and risks future lockdown over Christmas as cases continue to rise.”
Tuesday saw the highest rise in daily deaths reported across the country since June – with 143 recorded up until 9am.
Four people died in London within the same period, and 31 in the previous week ending on October 2.
According to the latest available figures, at the time of going to press Southwark had recorded 53 daily positive cases – up to 4pm on Tuesday. This time last month, the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases was 8.9. Fifty people were admitted to hospital in London on Tuesday with COVID-19.
Although London is currently in Boris Johnson’s ‘tier one’ category – with locked down Liverpool in the highest tier – the rapid rise in cases has left London politicians panicking.
Sadiq Khan warned the capital could be added to the tier two list within days after the number of city-wide cases rose to 8,197 by the end of Friday – up from 6,083 the previous week. Every London borough has reported a rise in cases, with several hitting the key threshold for further restrictions: 100 new cases a week per 100,000 population.
Southwark may not be one of the boroughs of most concern; with Ealing worst affected, but Khan says the whole of London is moving in the same direction and that the risk level could quickly change.
Government advisers Sir Patrick Vallance and Professor Whitty warned weeks ago that, if unchecked, the country was heading for a death toll of around 200 a day by November.
Addressing the nation on television, Keir Starmer urged the government to follow its own scientific advisers’ advice and not delay further measures – instead using half-term to bring cases under control now, rather than later. Blasting Johnson’s government, he said the PM and his ministers had ‘lost control of the virus’.
On Monday, Johnson unveiled his new ‘three tier’ system for local lockdowns – risking rebellion from northern MPs.
It has since emerged the government rejected calls from SAGE to impose a circuit-breaker three weeks ago. The advisers had made the case for a full lockdown as opposed to Johnson’s ‘three-tier’ strategy, arguing it would reduce hospital admissions from 132,000 to 66,000 – and help to keep the NHS open to other patients.