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A Government minister signalled today that London is going to be moved into tighter Tier 2 Covid-19 restrictions as 11 boroughs saw more than 100 new cases in a week per 100,000 people, according to official figures.
Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi stressed the Government was introducing new clampdowns across the country with a “heavy heart” after Liverpool was the first area to be put into Tier 3.
He told Sky News: “This is really difficult, it’s a balance between effectively two harms… the harm the virus is doing and obviously the harm to the economy and also to health of having the national lockdown.
“So the local lockdowns are the best way forward. The decisions are made with a heavy heart, really hard decisions…whether it be in Liverpool with Steve Rotheram (Mayor of the Liverpool City Region) there, and I have to pay tribute to him, the work we did with him over the weekend was pretty remarkable…
“I hope we can do the same with Andy Burnham (Mayor of Greater Manchester) and other parts of the country clearly as well, not just obviously Greater Manchester, but London and elsewhere as well.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was due to make a statement in the Commons this morning to update MPs on the latest developments in the Covid crisis.
The capital as a whole is also close to breaching this potential trigger point for a new clampdown, having reached 97 cases per 100,000 in the week to October 10.
A swathe of West London, as well as several council areas in East London, have seen the disease rise above this level.
Ministers, with the backing of Mayor Sadiq Khan, could move the capital from Tier 1 to Tier 2 as early as tomorrow which would mean a ban on mixing between households indoors including in pubs and restaurants.
Ealing has the highest rate in the capital at 144.8 per 100,000 in the week to October 10, with 495 cases, up from 87.2 and 298 cases for the previous seven days, according to an analysis by the PA news agency.
Richmond is second with a rate of 137.9 (273 cases), with 100.5 (199 cases) the previous week, Hackney and City of London 128.2 (373), 100.7 (293) the previous week, with the vast majority of the cases in Hackney rather than the Square Mile, Redbridge 123.5 (377), 107.5 (328) the previous week, Harrow 119.0 (299), 89.2 (224), Haringey 117.3 (315), 85.2 (229), Hammersmith and Fulham 115.6 (214), 71.3 (132), Barnet 111.9 (443), 80.8 (320), Hounslow 111.2 (302), 73.7 (200), Hillingdon 102.6 (315), 72.3 (222), and Newham 101.9 (360), 72.2 (255).
If Tier 2 restrictions are imposed on London, they are expected to come in across the city which saw 8,700 cases in the week to October 10, up from 6,359 for the previous seven days.
Mr Khan is urging the Government to put a support package in place for London, for businesses, particularly in the already hard-hit city centre, for vulnerable Londoners and test and trace efforts in the capital, including for those self-isolating.
He emphasised that hundreds of thousands of jobs are at risk in the capital.
In a letter to Boris Johnson, he stressed that the infection rate in London was “fast approaching” 100 cases per 100,000.
Moving from “medium” up to “high” would see the nine million people living in the capital hit with new limits on mixing between households.
“It is vital London has the resources to engage, explain, encourage and enforce heightened restriction and support compliance,” Mr Khan said in the letter.
“One London borough has done some specific work to estimate the cost of providing that service for six months from November onward and it is £300k over and above the allocation that was recently made to councils for support to compliance.
“I am aware that these are discussions that have taken place with other areas that have had restrictions in place and London government would expect to have those discussions as well.”
Mr Khan said the “unique circumstances” of the capital must be reflected in the approach and support.
He added: “The capital was hit particularly hard during the first wave with many of our communities and particularly the BAME community, suffering disproportionately.
“In addition, many families live in overcrowded accommodation and face high levels of homelessness and rough sleeping.
“Our size and density present specific challenges, with the economic case for protecting businesses in the Central Activities Zone overwhelming.”
He said it was “critical” that the Government resolves the funding position of Transport for London, urging a package for the network.
“I will continue to urge Londoners to be vigilant, follow the rules and exercise caution,” he added in the letter.
London MPs were expected to have a meeting with the Government this morning on the expected move into Tier 2.
Community leaders in some areas with low coronavirus rates have raised objections to their boroughs having to abide by such new measures.
However, half the capital could very soon be over the 100 new cases a week per 100,000 threshold, which is one potential trigger for moving into Tier 2.
Kingston is already on 98.6 (with 175 cases), Wandsworth 98.3 (324 cases), Waltham Forest 95.0 (263), Brent 94.9 (313), Barking and Dagenham 93.9 (200), Tower Hamlets 93.0 (302), Lambeth 92.9 (303), Havering 92.5 (240), Kensington and Chelsea 91.6 (143), and Camden 91.5 (247).
Figures in some boroughs are believed to be skewed by students from these areas testing positive at universities around England but their cases being allocated to their home district, through a computer “data enhancement” process being used which gives priority to NHS information including their GP’s details.
In Richmond, it is believed this could account for 30 to 35 per cent of recent cases.
Council leader Gareth Roberts said: “The fact that diagnoses made away from the borough, in some cases hundreds of miles away, are inflating our figures in such a dramatic fashion should be a concern not just for London but for the country.”
He called for local authorities to be funded to take over the test-and-trace system which the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Emergencies has said is having only a “marginal” impact on the spread of the disease.
All London boroughs have seen their infection rates rise in the week to October 10, compared to the previous seven days.
In Islington it has reached 89.5 per 100,000 (217 cases), Enfield 87.5 (292 cases), Westminster 86.5 (226), Southwark 78.4 (250), Sutton 76.1 (157), Merton 76.0 (157), Lewisham 75.9 (232), 62.8, Croydon 72.7 (281), Greenwich 72.6 (209), Bromley 70.1 (233), and Bexley 68.5 (170).
But the scale of the Covid-19 crisis is still far below that of hotspots in the North and Midlands.
Nottingham continues to have the highest rate in England, with 3,179 new cases recorded in the seven days to October 10, the equivalent of 954.9 cases per 100,000 people.
Liverpool has seen its rate increase from 555.4 to 677.5, with 3,374 new cases.
The rate in Manchester has fallen from 583.3 to 477.5, with 2,640 new cases recorded.