Ireland’s Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has spoken of “the calm before the storm” in his country. Are you getting the feeling that London too is soon to feel a COVID-19 surge? Here’s a bunch of coronavirus stories, large and small, relating to the capital from today.
- The big news from Boris Johnson’s daily coronavirus press conference is that every school in the UK, including London’s, will close on Friday except for vulnerable children and those of “key workers” including in the NHS, social care and the police and food supply delivery drivers. The Prime Minister said the closures will continue “until further notice” and failed to be more precise. He also announced that GCSE and A-level exams will not now take place in May and June but didn’t say if they would take place at a later date or if university entry would proceed on the basis of predicted grades. It appears they haven’t worked that out yet.
- Sadiq Khan’s response in a statement is that he supports the decision, confident that the government has not taken it lightly. He recognises that the move “will clearly affect” London’s teenagers but there is nothing in the statement about how the postponement or cancellation of the exams will be dealt with. On London understands that the Mayor was not at today’s COBRA meeting where the decision about schools was discussed.
- It was put to Johnson directly that “London is not listening to your advice” about social distancing, with pubs and restaurants still open and plenty (if fewer) people still using public transport. “When will you shut London down properly?’ he was asked. He did not answer the question, though later he said that although he is a lover of freedom, no one should rule out the government taking “further and faster action” to slow transmission of the virus in the future.
- The Mayor has, though, been critical of the government’s measures to protect private renters, saying they don’t go far enough. As well as a ban on evictions, he wants the benefits system to cover the housing costs of all tenants affected by the virus so that they don’t get into debt.
- A number of London boroughs have announced that they will not be evicting tenants if the virus hits their earnings so that they can’t afford their rents. They include Greenwich and Lewisham.
- BBC London’s Tom Edwards has reported that he’s been told that the Night Tube might be cut this weekend.
- The London SE1 website has spotted that National Express coaches in their way to Stansted are no longer stopping at Waterloo or Southwark Street.
- Confidence tricksters have been making bogus offers to go shopping for old and vulnerable people in order to rob them. Police in Camden say they have received a “small number” of reports of such scams. And Harrow West MP Garth Thomas has passed on a message from the Met to his constituents advising them that anyone knocking on their door claiming they are from the NHS and are there to test you for the virus is nothing of the kind.
- Pets can’t catch it but pet doctors can. An East London veterinary surgery has adjusted its consultation process.
- As of 9:00 a.m. today, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Greater London had risen to 953 – up from 621 yesterday. Southwark has now recorded the largest number with cases, followed by Westminster with 68 and Lambeth with 61. The lowest numbers are in Richmond, Redbridge, Havering and Kingston each with seven.
More to worry about tomorrow…