London could be on lockdown by the weekend as the Government draws up emergency plans to close the capital down, having already announced drastic public travel reductions Officials have labelled London a “city of superspreaders” with a third of Britain’s confirmed coronavirus cases in the city – though the number is more likely to be in the tens of thousands.
The country’s capital is set to go into lockdown as early as the weekend, according to reports, with plans already announced to drastically reduce all public transport, while Boris Johnson has refused to rule out further draconian measures imminently.
Official figures from Public Health England show 953 cases recorded in London compared to a total across the UK of 2,626.
And the proportion of deaths is higher in London than elsewhere in the country, with reports putting the capital’s death toll at 35.
The Army are set to deploy 20,000 troops to enforce new laws and the crisis has prompted the Queen to leave London for Windsor.
In response, Number 10 is said to be finalising an emergency plan which could see restaurants, bars, pubs, cinemas and more closed across the city turning it into a ghost town.
The Times reported the Cabinet Office has written to departments asking for recommendations about restrictions, how they could be implemented and how to ensure “compliance”.
Boris Johnson had admitted last night “further and faster measures” may be needed after coming under fire for initially pushing for “business as usual” when the first cases hit the UK.
Whitehall sources yesterday told the Mirror lockdown-style measures in London – which the Prime Minister admitted is “a few weeks ahead” of the rest of the country – are “imminent”.
It is estimated one in seven people in London work in the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector, and with the expected closures, as well as grounding of aeroplanes, such steps could leave thousands without jobs.
The Telegraph reports the Government is not ruling out forcing London residents to require paperwork to travel.
It is currently unclear whether Londoners will be able to continue travelling via cars and bikes, however.
Emergency laws to be introduced to Parliament tomorrow will include powers to “close premises” and “restrict or prohibit events and gatherings” anywhere in the UK, if the government chooses to.
The Coronavirus Bill will also allow the government to limit activity in “any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft”.
The government’s advisory group SAGE was meeting from 2pm yesterday to examine next steps.
Transport for London then announced it will run a reduced service to enable the city’s critical workers to make essential journeys – with no Waterloo & City line from Friday.
Until further notice, on Friday and Saturday nights there will be no all-night ‘Night Tube’ service or the all-night ‘Night Overground’ service that currently runs on the East London line – though late Tube and Overground services will continue for essential journeys.
London buses, meanwhile, will operate fewer services, but TfL’s extensive night bus network will continue to provide critical workers with a reliable night option on Friday and Saturday nights and throughout the week.
Everyone is urged not to use public transport for anything other than essential journeys.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “People should not be travelling, by any means, unless they really, really have to.
“Londoners should be avoiding social interaction unless absolutely necessary, and that means they should be avoiding using the transport network unless absolutely necessary.
“London will get through these extraordinarily challenging times, and ensuring the capital’s critical workers can move around the city will be crucial.
“Frontline staff across our health and care service – as well as those ensuring Londoners stay safe and can access food and other essentials – should be commended for their hard work.
“We owe it to them to do whatever we can to help them do their jobs effectively.
“I’m urging Londoners to only use public transport for essential journeys. Everyone should follow this and the other advice to help keep themselves and each other safe.”
Sources close to London mayor Sadiq Khan’s office said they expect a tightening of restrictions in the capital in the coming days.
However, the shape of any possible measures was unclear. City Hall sources criticised the lack of information from the Government.