The Party’s Over! UK Begins Serious Lockdown

A group ignored social distancing and joined in on what looks like a can-can dance in the middle of Soho as pubs closed

 

Metropolitan Police officers broke up crowds in Soho and made arrests after pubs kicked drinkers out at 10pm last night – two hours before the city was plunged into a Tier 2 lockdown.

Officers were pictured squaring off against revellers who were refusing to go home, with few wearing masks or socially distancing – and some carrying placards protesting against the measures.

Among the crowd was Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy and a staunch anti-lockdown campaigner.

London is now in a Tier 2 lockdown, meaning that meetings indoors between two households are no longer permitted, unless they are in a bubble, while the rules of six applies outside including in pub gardens.

Lancashire was also plunged into a Tier 3 lockdown, meaning all pubs and restaurants cannot reopen until curbs are eased.

In other developments in the country’s coronavirus battle: 

  • Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was at ‘anarchists’ carnival’ with 100 others a week after he apologised for dining with eight friends; 
  • Motorists were seen driving freely into Wales despite 6pm travel ban as First Minister Mark Drakeford says he is considering a ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown within days;
  • Britain could be carrying out a million coronavirus tests a day by Christmas as it develops the capacity to manufacture tests that take just 15 minutes; 
  • Almost a third of England’s councils saw a drop in coronavirus infection rates last week amid calls for a circuit-breaker lockdown, data shows; 
  • Sir Patrick Vallance says Tier Three restrictions will have to get tougher to bring R-rate below one as Boris Johnson warns Manchester time is running out if mayor Andy Burnham doesn’t accept new lockdown and daily cases hit 15,000;
  • Analysis of 19 countries shows Belgium has highest per-population count while UK and US sit 3rd and 4th… but data reveals San Marino is top of the table;
  • Schoolchildren are being left outside in the rain and sitting in freezing classrooms because of unclear Covid advice from Government, parents say.   

The entire of London may be heading into lockdown earlier than other areas – most of which have had significantly higher infection rates before facing new rules – because outbreaks can spread faster between boroughs because the population moves around so much.

The decision to place London into a Tier Two lockdown today sparked fears around 200,000 people in the city’s centre could lose their jobs in hospitality this weekend. An industry spokesman warned the drastic restrictions would see a ‘maximum squeeze on revenue and no support’.

It comes as Lancashire heads into Tier 3 – meaning pubs and bars will be required to close with restaurants only allowed to serve customers who also order ‘substanial’ meals. The county has its last night of freedom before the rules are put in place at midnight.

Lancashire joins Liverpool as the only areas in the top bracket, which means a ban on household mixing indoors and in gardens. Thousands of venues are expected to be closed from midnight tonight, with casinos, betting shops and car boot sales given another 48 hours’ grace.

The Department of Health said there would be a £12million support package in Lancashire as well as more money for an economic recovery ‘task force’ over the next six months. Local sources claimed in total it could be worth £30million.

Meanwhile, sources close to Mr Khan said he was bravely resisting spreading the congestion zone to the North and South circulars, which would force up to three million citizens to pay £15 to use their cars.

But senior Tories raged that actually the mayor went to the Treasury with a ‘begging bowl’.

They said he was told he needed to find some savings to help balance the books after years of mismanagement. They insisted it was up to him how the money was found.

A senior Conservative source said: ‘The fact of the matter is that he has been presented with a list of options. He is welcome to come up with his own.

‘But he needs to say how he is going to make savings. Instead he is playing games in the media.’

They added: ‘We have said how are you going to do it, these are some of the things you can do. He needs to find some ways of saving some money.’

The government has extended its emergency funding of TfL by two weeks to give more time to resolve the bitter wrangling over the huge sums needed to keep the transport system afloat.

The squabbling has been going on for months, with London Tory MPs increasingly frustrated about Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ refusal to take on the mayor’s dire threats in public.

In May Mr Khan accepted a £1.6billion funding agreement with Government, which came with the condition of a hike in the congestion charge to £15. But he branded the injection a ‘sticking plaster’ and is calling for a £5.7billion long-term solution for the next 18 months.

However, government sources say they are determined that Mr Khan will not get a free pass after ‘bankrupting’ TfL with mismanagement during his tenure.

Tube and bus drivers have been warned that crucial transport services may stop running if the impasse is not broken over the coming days.

TfL staff have been given a Section 114 warning, meaning that London’s transport system could cease to function as early as this weekend, according to LBC.

A City Hall source told MailOnline TfL cannot simply ‘turn London’s transport system off overnight’.

But former head of buses and surface transport at TfL Leon Daniels disagreed and warned services could be stopped in a worst-case scenario.

He told LBC: ‘As it would be with any business if you can’t pay your obligations, can’t pay for staff or contracts, can’t pay your energy bill then you have to bring it to a halt, and that’s the situation we’re in now.’

Both Government and the Mayor say they are working urgently to thrash out a solution, but are at loggerheads over the conditions.

A source close to Mr Khan told MailOnline: ‘Conditions such as extending a £15 congestion charge to the North and South Circular and taking free travel away from children and older people would be totally unacceptable to the Mayor and he would not ask Londoners to accept them in these exceptionally difficult times.’

Extending the congestion zone to the North and South Circular would hit the pockets of millions of Londoners, and has also come under fire from Conservatives.

Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey said the only reason such revenue raising measures were being floated was because of financial mismanagement by City Hall.

Mr Bailey said: ‘Khan has near bankrupted TfL and hung a closed sign over London.’

He added: ‘Under no circumstances would I back an extension of the congestion charge zone, regardless of who proposes it…

‘Any extension would hit hard working Londoners in the pocket and be a death knell for small businesses.’

Tory MP Bob Blackman told MailOnline: ‘He’s going with a begging bowl to the Treasury. He’s wanting £5.6billion to keep TfL running over the next months.

‘At which point, what? Is there a magic money tree? It is just ridiculous what he is asking for.’

TfL’s finances have long been of concern, with the DfT reportedly drafting in KPMG to audit their accounts.

Mr Khan maintains that TfL’s financial woes are down to plummeting passenger numbers during the pandemic.

During the peak of the crisis TfL’s revenues dropped 95 per cent as people were instructed to work from home and footfall on carriages fell.

It has risen slightly since lockdown was initially eased after the first wave, but today Mr Khan said passenger numbers will not return to pre-pandemic levels in the immediate future.

He told LBC: ‘I said back in May the deal we had for six months will be a sticking plaster, we need a sustainable deal.

‘For the foreseeable future there will not be five million journeys on our Tube, five-and-a-half million on our buses.’

The Mayor added that the Government should not punish Londoners for ‘doing the right thing’ and avoiding public transport – especially when such conditions have not been imposed on private rail providers.

He said: ‘The facts are that the Government gave the privatised rail operators 18 months funding with no strings attached, but is saying to TfL we’ll give you a six-month deal with strings attached.’

Mr Khan’s spokesman urged ministers to recognise that ‘singling out Londoners for punishment is unacceptable and makes no economic sense’.

He added: ‘We continue to discuss the next emergency funding package with Government and fight for a fair deal for London.’

His opposition was echoed by head of roads policy for the RAC Nicolas Lyes, who said: ‘Expanding the Congestion Charge zone to the north and south circular areas would encompass a huge geographical area and would hit drivers and businesses hard in the pocket at the very worst time, with the pandemic severely impacting travel habits and finances.

‘Drivers in London have already faced hikes in the existing Congestion Charge zone this year, as well as an increase in its hours of operation, so the introduction of further charges is totally unreasonable.’

Edmund King, AA president, said the furore over the congestion charge ‘blows away once and for all any pretence that the charge is related to environmental improvement or reducing congestion’. ‘It is simply a tax,’ he added.

‘It is highly ironic that this comes as many people are avoiding public transport due to Covid and some London boroughs have increased congestion with badly thought out road restrictions which are now causing a residents’ revolt.

‘Pushing through this excessive and socially regressive congestion tax which hits the poorest hardest will be a poll tax on wheels.’

A TfL spokesman said: ‘We continue to discuss our immediate funding requirements with the Government and hope these discussions can be concluded successfully soon, so we can help London through this next phase of the pandemic.

‘We are doing what we can to minimise costs and aim to continue operating a full service across our network while our funding discussions continue.’

The Department for Transport refused to disclose the details of its funding offer but stressed that negotiations with the Mayor are underway.

A DfT spokesperson said: ‘The Government continues to engage with Transport for London and the Mayor on the impacts of Covid-19 on TfL’s finances.

‘These discussions are ongoing and will ensure London has a safe, reliable network while delivering a fair deal to UK taxpayers.

‘Discussions are underway, and it would be inappropriate to disclose further details at this stage.’

It comes as Department of Health statistics, released yesterday afternoon, show huge variations in infection rates within the capital, but all will face the same ‘high’ lockdown rules from midnight tonight.

In Ealing and Richmond upon Thames, for example, there were more than 140 cases per 100,000 people in the most recent week where data is available for – this is the standard way of measuring a place’s infection rate – while in Bexley the rate is just 69 per 100,000.

Matt Hancock’s department yesterday claimed cases in the city are ‘rising sharply’ but local politicians have hit out at the decision to tar the whole city with the same brush.

Bob Blackman, the Tory MP for Harrow in west London – where cases are at around 121 per 100,000 people and where 304 people were diagnosed in the week to October 10 – said yesterday: ‘[Sadiq Khan] is going to be standing for re-election saying I am the mayor who closed London and threw the jobs under the train.

‘I don’t see that as a great approach. He’s going to the Treasury with a begging bowl… It is ridiculous what he is asking for.

‘Andy Burnham [Mayor of Manchester] is trying to protect and preserve Manchester, and understandably so. Sadiq Khan seems to want to take London into Tier Three. I don’t know what the mad rush is to do it.’

Bromley and Chislehurst MP Sir Bob Neill said the ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ for the capital was a mistake.

The senior Conservative told Sky News: ‘I think it’s a mistake. I think it’s disproportionate for the whole of London.

‘I can see some parts of London the test is met, but… there is a cluster of south-east and southern London boroughs where the rates are very much lower.’

Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond said he was surprised that the Tier 2 measures were being imposed across the capital.

‘Yes, London infections are rising but they are rising at different rates in different parts of London, different levels of hospitalisation,’ the senior Tory told BBC Radio 4’s World At One.

‘You are taking a very, very broad sweep and it’s not clear that the Government has actually made the case that there should be a complete London-wide lockdown.’

One expert told MailOnline that the reason the whole city was lumped together may be because people are so interconnected it is impossible to separate the boroughs.

‘We face such huge challenges for fairness and equity when considering lockdown,’ Dr Ilan Kelman, an expert in health disasters at University College London said.

‘London is especially hard due to its size and large rate of mobility via public transport. We also now have university students moving between their dorms and universities, even though university-related infections have been occurring around the country.

‘We are in a no-win situation with too many losing so much. What we can do is to be fair to each other and act to help as many as possible, no matter what the tiers or the local variations.’

It comes as motorists were seen driving freely into Wales from England as the 6pm coronavirus travel ban came into force this evening.

The ban – which was described as ‘unenforceable’ by the Police Federation earlier this week – makes it an offence to travel to Wales from coronavirus hotspots in the UK.

But there was no sign of any high visibility patrols to deter travel from Merseyside.

Only a handful of mobile homes were seen on the main A55 dual carriageway coming into North Wales as the movement restriction went into force.

Meanwhile Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he was ‘looking very carefully’ at whether to bring in a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

If he goes ahead with the proposals to shut bars and restaurants temporarily, it would leave England as the only UK nation not to have such blanket measures in place.

Despite the latest travel rules, it has been confirmed that people from areas with high levels of coronavirus will still be allowed to enter Wales for work, education and medical care, according to legislation published by the Welsh Government.

Wales’s ban will also grant exemptions for people seeking food or medical supplies, items for essential home maintenance, moving home, and attending weddings or funerals.

Obtaining or depositing money with a business, accessing care for children or vulnerable adults, carrying out voluntary or charity work, and training as an elite athlete will also allow a person to cross into the country.

The full list of 18 exemptions, published on Friday, can be found on the Welsh Government’s website.

Sadiq Khan had suggested earlier in the week that a case rate of 100 positive tests per 100,000 people per week would be a ‘trigger’ point for sending an area into a Tier Two lockdown.

But numerous areas of the country have a rate higher than this and remain in Tier One, while London has been thrust into Tier Two as a precautionary measure despite the rate not yet hitting that level.

SOURCE: Daily Mail, Emer Scully,