Matt Hancock announced today that London, parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will indulge in Level 3 starting tomorrow night, after a “sharp spike” in cases.
Mr Hancock said that in some areas the number of new cases has doubled, up to seven days, and new A type of virus has appeared circulating in southeast England.
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“When the virus grows exponentially, there is no moment to spare,” Hancock said this afternoon.
Greater London, South and West Essex and South Hertfordshire will be immersed in Level 3 from 12.01 am on Wednesday.
“Hospitals across the countries of Essex and Kent are already under pressure, and we know that a doubling of cases will be reflected in hospital admissions, and it will only take a few times for the NHS to be inundated.”
In Essex, Basildon, Brentwood, Harlow, Epping Forest, Castle Point, Rochford, Braintree and Chelmsford, Maldon, Thorrock and South End on Sea, all boards will be on the strictest procedures.
And in Hertfordshire, Level 3 will include Brooksburn, Hertzmire, Watford, and the Three Rivers Local Authority Area and will all be thrown into a very high Covid Alert Level.
These territories had only spent 12 days at Level 2 before being given stricter rules.
Across England, hospital admission has jumped 13 per cent.
“This measure is absolutely necessary, not just to keep people safe, but because we have seen that early action can help prevent more harmful problems that last longer later,” said Mr. Hancock.
The Minister of Health announced that the government had informed the World Health Organization that the virus had mutated.
Hancock said the new variant “may be linked to a faster deployment in southeast England”.
There were more than 1,000 cases of the new variant, in more than 60 local authority areas.
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The contingency plans will mean bars and restaurants will have to close.
Level 3 people are not allowed to meet anyone from outside their home, except for outdoor public places such as parks.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “This is incredibly disappointing for our companies which have already suffered so much this year.
“But it is clear that the virus is accelerating in the wrong direction again across London and that the lives of Londoners are in danger.”
Mr. Hancock will hold a press conference from Downing Street this evening.
This morning, health administrators gave a bleak briefing to London MPs this morning warning that Covid was pouring back into the capital.
Politicians were told that infection rates had risen “dramatically” in all neighborhoods except for Kensington and Chelsea, and cases were now “off the line”.
Areas that will be at level 3 starting Wednesday
- Epping Forest
- Castle Point
- Thurrock District Council regions and Southend-on-Sea
- Local authority area in the three rivers
Hospital occupancy in London is now also at 93 per cent, with MPs concerned about the impact in January, one of the busiest times of the year.
Before the number of infections increased in the past few days, the first London was expected to enter Level 3 on December 19, after a few days of revision on December 16.
But the timeline has been largely postponed, as scientists and ministers believe more urgent action is needed to stem the sudden spiral of cases.
Last week, Hancock announced a request for mobile testing units in schools in London and the Southeast regarding rising cases.
The decision will be another heavy blow to bars and restaurants.
Conservative Party MP from Kensington and Chelsea Felicity Buchan called for dividing London into different levels.
She said, “I notice that Essex and Hertfordshire have been divided into two parts, a level 2 part and two level 3 parts.”
“However, Greater London has been treated as one, our cases in Central London are well below the national average, and Central London is the center of strength of the national economy.”
Ms Buchan asked to know why the capital was treated differently from the surrounding areas.
Harlow MP and Education Select Committee Chair Robert Halfon said the hospitality business was “on its knees”.
Mr. Halfon said he supported all previous lockdown measures but had “real concerns” about throwing Harlow and Essex into Level 3.
Sean Bailey, the Conservative Party’s candidate for mayor of London, criticized Hancock for not dividing the capital into separate levels.
He said, “Putting all of London in Level 3 is a mistake – and I cannot support it.
“That is why I am calling on the government to rethink its decision and take a meaningful approach.”
Capital is under pressure
Bar owner Gary Murphy, who owns Ye Olde Miter Inn in north London, told Sky News he was “shocked” by the decision.
He said, “We did everything we could and are here again, locked up.”
“I would like to see that we are part of the solution, not the solution.
“I have a load of inventory in the basement … I’ll have a load left unless I can convince the residents of Barnet to have one last drink tonight.”
“Too much beer will go down the drain.”
Murphy said the coronavirus crisis was “incredibly bad” for his pubs.
“We lost half a million in our sales. I haven’t had income since March. We are really struggling.”
Theater producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh said the government’s decision to impose a third-degree London ban was “devastating” and “terrifying”.
Sir Cameron said in a statement: “The sudden reaction by the government in making an immediate decision to place London at Level 3 and shutting down the West End is devastating to both theater and the economy.
And in a surprise intervention, health chiefs rolled out plans to tighten Level 3 amid concerns that the restrictions were not doing enough to curb rates – but ministers have yet to endorse the idea.
Public health chiefs told MPs this morning that more needs to be done, and Level 3 has had no effect in areas like Kent.
It was not clear if the ministers were studying the matter.
Downing Street said lunchtime has already been put in place the Level System, but he refused to deny it could be changed.
Level 3 is already seeing stores, hairdressers and gyms open.
Out of school?
Mr. Khan demanded that schools be closed again to crack down on cases.
The move will force hundreds of thousands of students to study online and comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson pledged to keep children in school.
He revealed that there is a 75 per cent increase in coronavirus cases across the capital, but he made that clear to a large extent for children between the ages of 10 and 19.
“I don’t see many children between the ages of 10 and 19 in pubs, bars and restaurants,” Khan said, urging the government to close schools a few days ago rather than punish the hospitality sector.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, he said that “urgent consideration must be given to … closing high schools, sixth-grade colleges and FE colleges a few days in advance and keeping them closed for a longer period after Christmas.”
“With the outbreak among people 10 to 19 years old, the government should consider asking schools and colleges to close early and reopen later in January, while providing additional resources to support online learning.”
London’s Greenwich and Islington neighborhood councils are asking schools in their areas to close early and switch to online learning due to the surge in children’s cases.
Schools in the area will remain open to children of key workers and pupils at risk.
Downing Street said schools were expected to remain open until the end of the semester.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister said, “We have consistently said that not attending school has a harmful effect on children’s learning as well as on their personal development and mental health.
“This is why we expect all schools and colleges to remain open until the end of the term on Thursday, as schools have remained open throughout the pandemic.”
He declined to comment on whether any action would be taken against them if they defied orders.
Khan also called for all workers who cannot stay home to be tested, and for people to wear face coverings outside as well in public places.
Health ministers have told members of parliament that schools will not be closed – and that closing them would mean teens wandering into shopping malls and other areas spreading the virus instead.
But another lawmaker said: “Secondary schools should close today and go to distance learning.”
The virus is spreading high in London
The average number of new cases increased over seven days in 32 local authority areas.
There are 17 regions where the incidence has jumped above 200 cases per 100,000.
According to the latest figures, the Hovering area has the highest rate of coronavirus in London, with 1,314 new cases recorded in the seven days through December 9 – equivalent to 506.3 cases per 100,000 people.
That’s up from 321.3 in the seven days through December 2.
In his letter to Mr Johnson, Khan described the increase in cases as “extremely worrying”.
He added that face coverings should also be made mandatory in crowded outdoor public places due to the increase in shoppers at Christmas in the coming weeks.
“Time is running out to get the virus under control in our city and that is why I urge the government to heed my call and provide us with the additional support we so desperately need,” said Mr. Khan.
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