How’s ‘doing time’? We’ve currently served less than a week of our parliament-imposed imprisonment and we’re banged up for a whole month’s stretch at HMP Your Flat. It’s already got us trying to burrow a Shawshank style hole through the wall but now MPs and business leaders are arguing that London should be pulled out of lockdown before the rest of the country. And it might just be a good idea.
The premise, apparently being taken seriously in the corridors of power, is that the capital is seeing infection rates dwindle while the city’s economy, vital to the nation, is languishing as shops, restaurants and bars remain shuttered and workers are confined to work in their back bedrooms next to all the laundry.
According to the latest data, released yesterday, the infection rate in London stands at 145 cases per 100,000 people. By comparison Manchester is 463 per 100,000.
What’s more, the rate’s plunging, out of 32 London boroughs, 21 are seeing the infection rates heading in the right direction while some are hitting Tier One levels (remember the tiers? More short-lived than our banana bread obsession).
Out of 32 London boroughs, 21 are seeing the infection rates heading in the right direction.
Senior Tory and former cabinet minister Theresa Villiers has said “London is the powerhouse of the UK economy. We need to get it open again as soon as possible. With cases coming down in many boroughs, there is no justification for extending lockdown a minute beyond its scheduled end date on December 2nd” before continuing “Ministers must also seriously consider whether London can be released from lockdown early if cases continue to fall”
Villiers was joined by the likes of former Conservative leader Iain Duncan-Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, who urged “If over the next week, it shows we are really getting it under control, we should rethink the lockdown for the full four weeks”.
Meanwhile Sir Bob Neill, the MP for Bromley where rates have fallen below 100 per 100,000 this week, added “If it’s falling and that demonstrates a clear trend, they should consider taking London out earlier than December 2. If they don’t, on the evidence we have got so far, that would point towards us going into Tier 1”.
The pressure on the PM is growing from business leaders, too. The strain on restaurants and hospitality is incredible, with London’s restaurants likely to end the year having been completely closed for a third of 2020. Many simply won’t be able to make it through and in a year where we’ve lost some significant friends, more are bound to fall.
But it’s especially galling considering the rate in Wales is almost twice the London infection level and yet pubs and restaurants are open for business just across the border.
Pressed on the proposal at his Downing Street coronavirus briefing yesterday evening the PM refused to rule out the idea, circumnavigating the question in such a way to potentially leave the door open.
But while we feel the move would be justified, ending lockdown for London would be political suicide for a government already accused of being anti-Northern. It’s also unlikely that the London mayor would back a reopening given his party leader has made much of his calls for lockdown.