London will be put in ‘tier 2’ at midnight tomorrow, banning household mixing, as Southwark politicians call for an urgent ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to stem the rapid rise in cases.
The new rules mean mixing between households is banned – including in pubs and other venues – but up to six people can still meet up outside.
The 10pm curfew is still in place, and people can travel to work or to their school or university but are advised to work from home where possible.
In a statement issued today, councillor Kieron Williams, Southwark Council’s leader, said: “This is a critical moment for our borough.
“Despite the efforts of everyone in our community, the infection rate is rising rapidly, and hospital and intensive care admissions in London are rising too.
“We all need to act now to help save lives. The new rule is clear – please only socialise indoors with people you either live with, or who are part of your support bubble.
“And continue to follow the other government guidelines too, including reducing the number of journeys you make where possible.
“If we all play our part now we can save lives and reduce the chance of a need for a full lock down later in the year, protecting jobs too.
“I know this is not easy. We will continue to offer support to those how are hardest hit through our Community Hub and Southwark Emergency Support Service.
I am also calling on the government to come forward with more financial support for affected businesses and for people who are struggling to get by.
“I am immensely proud of the people of Southwark and of our local businesses for doing their best to adapt to an ever-changing situation, playing your part by following the new rules as they happen, and trying your best to stop the spread of the virus.
“I urge everyone to continue to do this, with our full support. Only by working together can we protect our families, friends and communities.”
Southwark saw a total of 250 new positive COVID-cases last week, compared to 186 the week before – a rise of more than 34 per cent in just seven days; though it is not one of the worst affected boroughs in the capital. Ealing currently has the highest rate of infection in London, at 144.8 cases per 100,000 people.
The government’s own advisers had warned not locking down fully could lead to deaths rising to 200 a day by next month.
Although supportive of further measures, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens are all calling for a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown to give the government time to fix the ‘failing’ test and trace system, including giving businesses and residents greater support, and prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed in November.
Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP Neil Coyle described Boris Johnson as “ increasingly isolated and out of touch” after a new YouGov poll showed 68 per cent of respondents would support a circuit breaker lockdown during half term.
Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes said: “If we follow the science and break the circuit, we can get this virus under control.
“If we do not, we could sleep walk into a long and bleak winter.”
According to data from City Hall, despite improvements over the last three weeks the testing rate in London remains the lowest in the country and is currently less than 80 per cent of the average rate achieved across England.
Yesterday (Wednesday, October 14), Sadiq Khan wrote to the Prime Minister calling for more financial support for struggling industries in London, and further clarification on what help will be available if the capital is moved into higher tiers – as announced today – including an immediate extension to the business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses currently due to end in March 2021.
In the letter he explained: “At 67 per cent of usual pay, the new Job Support Scheme is less generous than the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and it leaves out workers in sectors which are not “legally closed” but are struggling under the restrictions currently in place, as well as the self-employed.
“At present the scheme does not prevent the incomes of the lowest-paid workers falling below the minimum wage, but many Londoners in this position are blocked from accessing additional support through the benefit system.”
Luisa Porritt who was announced as the Lib Dem candidate for Mayor of London last week, said: “It is clear that testing capacity in London is not good enough and that the test and trace system itself is in a mess.
“Until this is fixed, people will continue to face lockdown as a result of Government incompetence.
“A circuit breaker, introduced now, will not only get the transmission rate down but would give the government the opportunity to fix the failing test and trace system.”
Green Party co-leader Sian Berry, who is also the party’s mayoral candidate in the delayed election, is backing a circuit breaker but also pushing for a Universal Basic Income to replace Universal Credit as “the simplest, most effective way to protect lives and guard against a new wave of poverty.”
She said: “This morning I told the mayor that now is the time for a strong united call from London to short-circuit the complexity of current systems of support and welfare, and bring in a basic income that would stop anyone facing hardship from falling through the gaps this winter.
“For the new restrictions to be effective, we also need the government to get in place a properly-funded local test and trace service, without the failures of the privatised and centralised system that has let down so many people.
For months, the Greens have been warning that government measures are not going far enough to halt a second wave.
“A short, effective lockdown combined with universal income support, where no one can fall through the cracks into destitution, is what our citizens need at this crucial time. This is how we can work together as a city to save lives.”
On top of the new rules, people should continue to keep their distance from others, wash their hands frequently, wear a face covering, and self-isolate if showing any COVID-19 symptom while arranging a test, or if they have been in contact with someone else who has tested positive.