Twelve London boroughs have seen Covid-19 infection rates tip the worrying threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 people, amid fears the capital is hurtling towards Tier 2 restrictions.
Richmond upon Thames (140.4), Hackney and City of London (133.1) and Ealing (132.5) had the highest daily new cases per 100,000 people in the week to October 8, according to Government statistics.
Croydon (69.8), Bromley (67.1) and Sutton (64), all in the south, sit at the other end of the scale with the fewest new cases per day — but all of them have still seen a significant hike in infections over the past month.
The average coronavirus infection rate across London’s boroughs is 94.15 cases per 100,000 people, according to the most recent Department of Health data — the equivalent of nearly one person in every 1,000 in the last week.
It comes after Mayor Sadiq Khan said it is ‘inevitable’ the capital will pass a ‘trigger point’ to join swathes of the North West in the higher Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions in the ‘next few days’. It would see the city’s nine million residents banned from seeing their friends and family indoors, including in pubs and restaurants.
Mr Khan and other London bosses are in support of a national two-week ‘circuit break’ lockdown across the whole of England to stem rising infections to avoid ‘sleepwalking into a bleak winter’. But Tory London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey slammed Mr Khan as ‘incredibly irresponsible’ and accused him of ‘governing by press release’ for supporting drastic action without clear scientific backing.
Reports say 100 cases per 100,000 people is considered one of the thresholds for an area being moved into Tier 2. But ministers are bound to take into consideration an array of different sets of statistics, including ones that show the speed of growth, hospitalisations and deaths.
Data shows hospitalisations for Covid-19 in London have barely risen over the past month, despite cases having increased. Almost 5,000 infected patients were being treated by NHS doctors during the darkest days of the first wave in April — but the figure currently stands at around 300.
Richmond upon Thames (140.4), Hackney and City of London (133.1) and Ealing (132.5) have the highest infection rates in London
London is still well behind the North West and North East, where ministers are focusing their attention to reduce Covid-19 cases which are beginning to translate into hospitalisations.
For example, Liverpool’s intensive care wards are running at 95 per cent capacity, a councillor warned today.
Data shows London is around four weeks behind the North West, where a significant proportion of people are under Tier 2 restrictions, and Liverpool is under Tier 3.
WHAT BOROUGHS HAVE MORE THAN 100 CASES PER 100,000?
Seven–day rolling rate of new cases by specimen date ending on 08 October:
Richmond upon Thames: 140.4
Hackney and City of London: 133.1
Kensington and Chelsea: 103.8
Hammersmith and Fulham: 101.5
Kingston upon Thames: 101.4
Tower Hamlets: 100.4
The 12 boroughs with infection rates above 100 cases per 100,000 are generally in the west and north-west of London.
Six other boroughs – Wandsworth (98), Newham (95.7), Waltham Forest (95), Hillingdon (92.9), Lambeth (91.4) and Westminster (90.3) – are close behind with infection rates over 90.
No borough has an infection rate lower than 60 cases in every 100,000 people, and those on the lower end of the scale are all in the south and south-east of the capital.
The north-south divide in London bares a striking resemblance to the picture of England as a whole, with the North West suffering significantly higher cases than the South East and South West.
But despite south London having more than half the cases of the worst area – Bexley’s infection rate is 62 compared to Richmond’s 140 – London is expected to be treated as a region when considering new restrictions.
Rules such as a ban on mixing with friends and family, closure of pubs or gyms would be rolled across the city to avoid confusion.
And the latter rule could be implemented as early as this week, according to London mayor Sadiq Khan, who said it is inevitable the capital will pass a ‘trigger point’ to enter the higher Tier 2 coronavirus restrictions in the ‘next few days’.
There is no official specific threshold which determines the level of restrictions in each area, with ministers getting the last word in any given case regardless of the thoughts of local leaders.
But various reports suggest Tier 2 would be triggered, or at least considered, when cases went over 100 per 100,000 people. The most severe level, ‘very high’ Tier 3, would come in when Tier 2 measures have failed to reduce transmission.
Boris Johnson stepped back from immediately placing the capital into the Tier 2 when he outlined the nation’s new triple-tiered lockdown system which comes into force today.
This would put London with most of the nation at the lowest end of the scale, meaning no new restrictions would be imposed immediately and the rule of six and the 10pm curfew staying in place.
But Mr Khan said on Tuesday that the entirety of the city will have to move up to ‘high’ within the coming days.
He told Sky News: ‘Across our city… the average over the last seven days is about 90 per 100,000. All the indicators I have, hospital admissions, ICU occupancy, the numbers of older people with cases, the prevalence of the disease, the positivity are all going the wrong direction.
‘Which means, I’m afraid, it’s inevitable over the course of the next few days London will have passed a trigger point to be in the second tier.’
On city-wide restrictions, Mr Khan said: ‘We’re keen to go as one as we can see the complexities and the confusion caused by some boroughs having additional restrictions and other boroughs having less.
‘Many Londoners work in one borough, live in another borough, study in another borough, go to a restaurant in another borough, so we’re really keen to go as one city.’
Government data shows that although London’s hospitalisation rates for Covid-19 are higher than in the summer, they are nowhere near where they were in spring.
An average of 44 people are being admitted to hospitals across London every day. This compared to lows of five at the start of August, and almost 750 at the start of April.
It suggests London will not be plunged into Tier 2, because it’s understood other parts of England with high infection rates have escaped tougher restrictions because their hospitalisation are not at breaking point.
Once admissions go up, it reflects that cases in the over 60s are rising, which is a cause for concern. This was explained by Professor Chris Whitty at Monday evening’s Downing Street briefing.
Nottingham, which had the highest infection rate for several days before the tiered strategy was announced, was spared Tier 3 because ‘hospitals are not full’ and ‘most cases are among younger people’, Nottingham City Council leader David Mellen suspected.
Cases are rising in London but this appears to only be in younger populations, based on hospital data
An average of 44 people are being admitted to hospitals across London every day. This compared to lows of five at the start of August, and almost 750 at the start of April
Sadiq Khan, the Labour mayor of London, has said he agrees with Sir Keir Starmer’s call for a short, snap national coronavirus lockdown with immediate effect.
WHAT ARE THE THREE TIERS?
TIER 1/MEDIUM: This is for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place.
- you must not socialise in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors
- certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am
- businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is a take-out service
- places of worship remain open, subject to the rule of 6
- weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees
- exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors, or indoors with the rule of 6
TIER 2/HIGH: On top of restrictions in alert level medium:
- you must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting
- you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden
- exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport
- you can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but should look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
TIER 3/VERY HIGH: At a minimum, this means:
- you must not socialise with anybody you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden
- you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park
- pubs and bars must close and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals
- places of worship remain open, but household mixing is not permitted
- weddings (but not receptions) and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
- you should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if you are resident in a very-high alert level area
The government will also seek to agree additional interventions in consultation with local authorities.
‘A short, national ‘circuit break’ – as advised by the experts on SAGE – will save lives, protect the NHS and support our economic recovery by preventing longer restrictions that will otherwise be inevitable,’ Mr Khan tweeted.
Labour leader Sir Keir demanded a two or three week circuit break to ‘break the cycle’ of infections and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed, in a significant escalation of his criticism of the government.
He is likely to press the point when he questions Mr Johnson at PMQs in the Commons at noon.
Two of the government’s scientific advisers said could prevent thousands of deaths in the long-run.
Sir Keir told reporters on Tuesday: ‘There’s no longer time to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt. The Government’s plan simply isn’t working. Another course is needed.’
‘If we don’t, we could sleepwalk into a long and bleak winter. That choice is now for the Prime Minister to make. I urge him to do so.’
Councillor Kieron Williams, the Labour and Co-operative leader of Southwark Council, is also supporting a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown this month.
He said: ‘With positive cases rising at worrying speed in Southwark and across London, I’m calling on the Government to urgently implement a circuit breaker.
‘It’s imperative that we follow scientific advice without delay, or we will be risking people’s health. There is no way to dress up the facts here – we are at a critical point and without immediate action people in Southwark will needlessly die.
‘I know what a worrying time this is for our residents and businesses, but a short period of tighter restrictions could be less painful to the local economy and to families than something which essentially draws the process out for longer and risks future lockdown over Christmas as cases continue to rise.’
Some local leaders in London are keen to prevent cases spiralling further, with residents of Tower Hamlets, with the 12th highest infection rate in London, being urged to stop mixing.
The borough’s mayor John Biggs asked households to avoid meeting each other two weeks ago ‘unless absolutely necessary’.
He called the situation a ‘matter of life and death’ and said urgent action was required. But his request comes independently from the national Government and so cannot be enforced by the council.
But the council for Richmond-upon-Thames has called for Government data to be reviewed before any extra steps are taken, claiming the data is unreliable.
When the borough soared into the lead for the highest infection rate last week, councillors claimed the own research showed at least a quarter of cases actually tested positive in other parts of England, such as Leeds, Exeter, Manchester and Durham.
It may be due to university students testing positive in other parts of the country after moving away from London, where their home address is registered.