The UK government has confirmed on Thursday that London’s COVID-19 restrictions will tighten this weekend.
“It is clear that the virus is now spreading rapidly in every part of our city, and hospital and ICU admissions are steadily rising,” said the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan in a statement. “Time and again it has been shown that it is better to act earlier than to act too late — which would cost more lives and damage more livelihoods. I am not willing to put Londoners’ lives at risk and we must do all we can to minimise economic damage.”
Some business groups are slamming the decision.
“Moving London into Tier 2 will be catastrophic for its hospitality businesses, unless improved job support and grants are made available immediately,” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of the trade body UKHospitality in a statement.
She added that with venues in London already taking a hit due to the dip in inbound tourism and more people working from home, a move into Tier 2 will be “catastrophic for some of them and it is only going to be made worse by the end of the furlough scheme in under two weeks.”
After a meeting involving Khan, government ministers, the city’s senior health advisers and council leaders, the mayor said the decision was made that London would move to level two of the UK’s COVID-19 levels, giving the city a “high” alert status.
This will mean Londoners will not be able to mix between different households indoors — including in their homes and inside pubs and restaurants. Londoners should also aim to reduce the number of journeys they make where possible.
“There are no good options, said Khan. “I know these further restrictions will require Londoners to make yet more sacrifices, but the disastrous failure of the test, trace and isolate system leaves us with little choice. I am well aware that these restrictions will have a further significant impact on businesses in our city, which is why the government must come forward with more financial support for affected businesses and local authorities immediately, as well as for vulnerable Londoners struggling to get by.”
He added that he hopes the move will “slow the spread of the virus, take pressure off the NHS and help avert the possibility of a full lockdown lasting months — which would be the worst possible outcome for Londoners and our economy.”
Yet, with many businesses already facing steep losses since the pandemic hit, the news has brought up some strong reactions, with real estate advisor Altus Group calling it “the death knell” for the pubs and restaurant industry.
WATCH: London to move into tier 2 lockdown
The London Chamber of Commerce is now joining calls for the UK government to provide more financial support for the London business community, particularly those working in hospitality.
“The government must also end the 10pm curfew to allow longer trading, as whatever evidence basis they are working from will now have changed due to the consequence of tier 2 restrictions,” he added,” said Richard Burge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce.
WATCH: How will England’s three-tier lockdown system work?
Additional reporting by Oscar Williams-Grut and Tom Belger