Fears London could be plunged into Tier 3 next week

The Government must consider placing London in Tier 3 restrictions, scientists have said, after 21 out of the 32 boroughs showed worrying rises in cases.

The capital is now the second worst region in the country, just behind the West Midlands, with more than 15,000 people testing positive in the past week, a rate of 169.6 per 100,000 people, up from 150.9 a month ago.

It means London is now higher than many of the Tier 3 areas, such as the North East where case rates have halved from 330.2 per 100,000 to 160.4 since the beginning of November. 

The case rate in the capital is higher than all but five of the current Tier 3 regions with the borough of Haringey seeing rises of 46 per cent since last week, Bromley 40 per cent and Kingston 33 per cent.

Professor Paul Hunter at the University of East Anglia said it was “very worrying” that cases had continued to increase during the national lockdown and said a rise from Tier 2 must now be considered.

“There were more cases at the end of lockdown than at the start in London,” he said.

“It is very worrying when cases were still continuing to increase in these regions despite the national lockdown. It is quite likely that case numbers will start to accelerate even more in coming days probably including in areas not yet showing an increase because of more movement around London.

“If cases in London were rising even during a national lockdown then we do need to reconsider the Tier allocation in these areas. Whether across the region or at the Local Authority level is open to debate.”

A health source said Public Health England “is starting to get worried about it again” as the data shows cases on the rise in the capital.

The insider added that there was “concern across the system” about the number of Londoners out shopping and visiting restaurants on Saturday and Sunday, the first weekend since national lockdown measures were lifted.

Footage of densely crowded streets and crammed queues in the West End over the weekend showed hoards of shoppers ignoring, or unable to obey, social distancing measures.

The effect of this increase in contacts is likely to be felt in five to seven days’ time, health officials believe. 

A large crowd of people outside Harrods December 5 2020


A crowd of people outside Harrods in London on December 5


Credit: Elliott Franks 

A similar spike in cases in London was seen around a week into the nationwide lockdown, resulting from people engaging in a “last hurrah” of socialising the weekend beforehand.

On Monday, Sadiq Khan, Labour Mayor of London, renewed calls for shoppers to follow the rules warning that moving to a higher tier would be devastating for businesses. 

“If London was to be in Tier 3 it would be catastrophic to those industries already really crippled under the Covid pandemic that could mean many shops going bust, many bars, pubs and restaurants going bust,” he told Sky News.

“We’re keen to make sure we stay in Tier 2. Nobody wants London to go into a Tier 3. We can’t act in a way that inadvertently leads to a surge in this virus.”

A spokesperson for Mr Khan acknowledged that Londoners had made “monumental sacrifices” to help bring down the number of cases in most boroughs last month.

“However, that improvement has slowed down in recent days and case rates remain high,” the spokesperson said. They added: “If we begin to act like this virus has gone away we could see a devastating further surge in cases at a time of year when our NHS is already under enough pressure.”

A City Hall source said: “It is right to say cases in London had been plateauing out, after declining, and are starting to edge up again. Everyone is very wary of this.”

Mr Khan and Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, are in frequent contact by text, it is understood. 

However, the last time the Government announced its tier allocations at the end of last month, City Hall was not informed in advance of the decision to place London in Tier 2.

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