Update: Yeah, apparently this is happening and London MPs have now been informed (and duly leaked). Health Secretary Matt Hancock is due to address parliament this afternoon…
Health chiefs say that London is ‘teetering’ on the edge of Tier Three, and on Wednesday the government will decide whether to push the capital into the tightest measures to stem the spread of coronavirus. Meanwhile hospitality can only watch and wait.
If you’ve booked a London restaurant, hotel stay or work Christmas party for after Wednesday (ours is on Thursday, classic) then you’re joining us and the rest of the capital on tenterhooks to find out what will happen when the government reviews the raw data which will decide if London remains in Tier Two, or plunge us into Tier 3. Experts are split on what the most likely outcome is, but with £3 billion at stake from a London shutdown plus further misery for hospitality and beyond it will be yet another tricky decision for Boris Johnson.
The PM, who isn’t exactly short of things to do right now as he negotiates Brexit, handles the pandemic and attempts to keep his party in line, will have a tricky choice to make, not least as the most recent indications are that spread of the virus is pretty flat in most of London’s population, but it’s running wild in secondary schools, doubling every four days.
In response Matt Hancock announced on Thursday that rapid testing would be ‘surged’ on schools to attempt to nip things in the bud before the virus inevitably starts to spread among the general population. But with the weekend (and another four days) passing it may well be too late.
In response Matt Hancock announced on Thursday that rapid testing would be 'surged' on schools to attempt to nip things in the bud...
Another headache for decision makers is that geographically the spread isn’t uniform across the capital, with the North East being particularly hard hit. This has led to calls for ministers to divide the capital’s tiers, though this seems like a tricky ask.
Another issue is the fact that the announcement, expected the day after the decision is made, won’t see the new tiering come into effect until Saturday 19th. Which almost certainly means a ‘last hurrah’ mentality will grip London as everyone makes a dash for their nearest scotch egg provider.
Of course there’s a chance that the prospect of mass testing plus London’s reasonable hospital capacity means that it will escape Tier Three this time. But a glance at the US experience post-Thanksgiving suggests that Londoners will face an uphill battle to remain in Tier Two after the Christmas coronavirus amnesty. The five day relaxation of the rules, a Santa super-spreader likened to the film The Purge, just with more killing, looks likely to bring the virus back to London with a vengeance.
It’s down to us all to be responsible and try and keep London’s scotch eggs flowing. Let’s not blow it!