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Millions to be banned from mixing indoors as London is set to move into Tier 2 lockdown

Written by on 15 October 2020

London will face Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions from Saturday, with the capital’s mayor warning that the virus is “spreading rapidly in every corner of our city”.

Moving to the “high” alert warning means millions of people in London will be banned from meeting people from other households indoors, whether that is in their home or in a pub or restaurant.

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People can meet outside in private gardens and outdoor spaces – provided they adhere to social distancing and follow the “rule of six” on gatherings.

Health minister Helen Whately told London MPs about the decision in a meeting on Thursday morning, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock later formally announcing the move in a Commons statement.

He also confirmed a number of other areas will be joining London in Tier 2 from midnight on Friday: Essex (excluding Southend and Thurrock), Elmbridge, Barrow-in-Furness, York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Erewash.

There has been no decision about whether to move Greater Manchester into Tier 3 (“very high”), the highest level of restrictions.

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Mr Hancock told MPs that “discussions are ongoing”, adding: “No further decisions have yet been made but we need to make rapid progress.”

London mayor Sadiq Khan said COVID-19 is “spreading rapidly in every corner of our city”, with a “significant number” of boroughs reporting an average of 100 cases per 100,000 people.

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The London-wide average infection rate was 92 new cases per 100,000 in the week 11 October.

But it varies widely across boroughs. Richmond had the highest rate at 110.7 new cases, while Bexley had 48.9.

“Nobody wants to see more restrictions, but this is deemed to be necessary in order to protect Londoners by myself, London council leaders and ministers,” he told the London Assembly.

Mr Khan said that “action on a national scale” was still required, given “how far the virus has already been allowed to spread” and the government’s “complete failure to get a working test, trace and isolate system in place”.

He backed Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s call for a “short national circuit breaker” lockdown, which “could save thousands of lives and drive the virus down to manageable levels”.

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Minister’s appeal to local leaders

Mr Khan added: “In London, we experienced the worst of COVID-19 back in the spring. Thousands of lives were lost and our economy has been left reeling.

“We simply can’t afford for the government to be slow to act again.”

Rupa Huq, Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton, said she was “unconvinced this tinkering is really enough”.

“As SAGE [Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies] advise, to stop it spreading like wildfire a short sharp circuit breaker now needed,” she added.

Another Labour MP, Ilford North’s Wes Streeting, said the Tier 2 restrictions for London would keep businesses open “in name only” and called for more economic support.

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Coronavirus: Mixed-up restrictions around UK

The ban on households mixing indoors will have an impact on London’s 3,640 pubs and 7,556 restaurants.

But they will not be eligible for government support available to businesses ordered to close, as this only applies to premises in Tier 3 areas.

Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster, said she was “deeply concerned about the impact further lockdown will have on the capital’s hospitality, leisure and retail businesses”.

“Alongside protecting the health of Londoners, protecting people’s jobs and livelihoods must be a priority at this time.

“Many of our businesses are already on their knees, and I urge the government to consider further support before they disappear for good.”

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Another Tory MP, Bromley and Chislehurst’s Sir Bob Neil, told Sky News it was a “mistake” and “disproportionate” for all of London to go into Tier 2.

He told All Out Politics that the “one-size fits all approach is a mistake”.

Mr Hancock told MPs that the government had looked at a “borough-by-borough approach”, but “the decision that we came to is because the cases are rising throughout the capital, therefore it was right for the capital to move as a whole”.