London Coronavirus Digest 20 March: Pubs, galleries, theatres, gyms, restaurants and cafés must close from tonight

London Coronavirus Digest 20 March: Pubs, galleries, theatres, gyms, restaurants and cafés must close from tonight

An evolving list of today’s virus-related news from Corona City. Last updated at 17:35 on 20 March, 2020.

  • Government briefing brings astonishing announcements. As expected, pubs, clubs, restaurants, cafés, leisure centres, gyms, theatres and cinemas order to close and from tonight but NOT ONLY IN LONDON as had been anticipated. Museums, galleries, betting shops and bingo halls too must shut (the first two very significant for the capital’s and nation’s economy). Absolutely unprecedented commitment from the Chancellor to cover up to 80 per cent of peoples’ wages up to £2,500 a month, defer VAT payments, uplift Universal Credit. The PM said severe restrictions on major transport networks not be imposed. Deputy chief medical officer said it’s OK for  children to go to parks to play, but not in groups. PM urged people not to go out tonight for a last quick drink or meal.
  • Northwick Park hospital declared a “critical incident” for 24 hours because it no longer has capacity to look after coronavirus patients. However it has now been “stood down”, the BBC has reported.
  • Transport for London is getting lots of praise for taking steps to protect its small and medium-sized retail tenants by letting them of their rents for three months starting from next Wednesday 925 March). Most of these are cafés, shops and other small businesses. This will include those operating in the 40 London Underground stations being closed as part of TfL’s public transport service reductions, announced earlier this week. Ongoing rent review and lease renewal negotiations are suspended and those with rent arreasr are to be given more time to pay, TfL says. Individual discussions will be had with larger businesses, which account for about 15 per cent of the total. Michael Lassman of the Federation of Small Businesses’ London region has led the applause. TfL’s press release on this is here.
  • London MPs Karen Buck and Meg Hillier have written to the government asking for housing associations to be allowed to buy empty newly built homes for housing families that are overcrowded and in hostels, which makes self-isolation that much harder. Hillier has spoken about this in Parliament.
  • Public address announcements are now running at all Underground stations asking people not to use the Tube network “for anything other than essential journeys”.
  • The playgrounds, canal paths and public areas of the London Olympic Park are remaining open to visitors but its sports venues and other attractions close today until at least 20 April.
  • Argent, the developer of King’s Cross, has done the same as TfL, offering businesses based there three months rent-free.

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