In Brief

Coronavirus: is London heading into Tier 3 after restrictions are reviewed on Wednesday?

Health Secretary mulling plans to split capital into two tiers in order to keep West End open

Police and council bosses have blasted proposals to impose Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions on some areas of London while leaving the rest in Tier 2.

The city has been in the mid tier since lockdown ended in November, but soaring infection rates have prompted Health Secretary Matt Hancock to consider introducing tougher measures in the capital’s worst-hit boroughs when nationwide restrictions are reviewed on Wednesday.  

The plan “would mean restaurants and other hospitality businesses in London’s West End could stay open, while those in suburban areas would close”, The Mail on Sunday reports. But the Met Police and local councils are warning that monitoring movements between areas in different tiers would be impossible and that the split could cause public order issues.

Some Tory MPs have also criticised the plan. Six senior Conservatives have sent a letter to Boris Johnson arguing that imposing blanket Tier 3 measures in parts of the capital would hurt not just Londoners but “people across the nation” who depend on the “wealth and prosperity generated by our great city”.

The leaked letter, organised by Harrow East MP Bob Blackman, also warns that London’s Tory MPs may vote against the government’s Covid response plans at next month’s review if the city is plunged into Tier 3.

The Tory rebels may be fighting a losing battle, however, with London now recording higher infection rates than any other region in the UK.

Health ministers told London MPs last week that the positive test rate in the capital was 7%, compared with an average of 5.9% across the rest of the country. And latest official figures show that the city has been hit with nearly 24,000 Covid cases in a week, with rises in every borough, the London Evening Standard reports.

Five boroughs each reported more than 1,000 new cases in the week to 8 December: Havering (1,222), Redbridge (1,109) Newham (1,084), Enfield (1,017) and Waltham Forest (1,013). But “while northeast London remains the Covid hotspot, the disease appears to be seeping across the city", the newspaper adds.

Indeed, the infection rate in London is so high that tier changes may be announced before the review scheduled for Wednesday, government sources told Politico’s London Playbook.

However, the leading epidemiologist behind the Covid Symptom Study app has argued that putting the capital into Tier 3 would be a “big mistake" in the push to curb infections, the British Medical Journal website reports. 

Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine event, Tim Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, said: “This on-off business is a total disaster, and we should avoid it. Drinking and festivities will happen if people think that in two days’ time, ‘that is it for another six weeks’.

“It would be madness to do that."

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