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Lockdown for London?

By Tim Le Couilliard
09 December 2020
Public Affairs

By Tim Le Couilliard

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog on the “great unlocking of the lockdown,” but caveated that it was not quite the mass national liberation that we’d all hoped for. Three weeks on, I am quite glad put in that caveat: it appears that we are likely to see the gradual resuming of a full lockdown, including in London.

Despite the hugely encouraging progress made on the vaccine front, with the first Britons (and the first Europeans for that matter) receiving their vaccinations yesterday, today we are seeing multiple reports that advisers to the government are calling for a fresh new lockdown in the Capital – potentially moving the city into tier three.

The numbers in the city are not ideal, with the latest government data published today showing that 20 of the London boroughs have infection rates higher than the national average. In Haringey there has been an alarming rise in cases – up by 47% in the past week alone. Bromley has risen 40%, whilst Bexley, Hackney, Harrow, Kingston and Merton are all recording rises of roughly 25% in the past week.  Nine London boroughs now have a seven-day infection rate of more than 200 new cases per 100,000. 

This has, naturally, led some medical advisers to call for the government to impose a tier three lockdown, with some demanding one as soon as today. Of course, the spikes in cases are not uniform across the boroughs, but the expectation is that London, as it has been throughout the pandemic, will have uniform restrictions. This has been used as a warning by London MPs and the Mayor Sadiq Khan, who have asked Londoners to redouble their efforts to protect themselves. The Cabinet Secretary, Michael Gove, has suggested that the government wants to keep London in tier two, but that it will require people sticking to the current rules. The impression very much being that, should the restrictions be tightened, it is the population, not the government to blame. When pressed today, Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to rule out tier three before Christmas. 

A review of the allocation of tiers has been in the diary for the 16th December ever since the new tiering system was announced.  Whilst the concern has always been there that this could bring bad news for the capital, with a week to go, it is becoming a very real possibility that heightened restrictions may well be introduced.