London Coronavirus Digest 26 March: Hospital bed shortage fears grow but applause for chancellor’s help for self-employed

London Coronavirus Digest 26 March: Hospital bed shortage fears grow but applause for chancellor’s help for self-employed

Today’s main news and talking points about the capital as it copes with the virus listed below as they arise…

  • The Federation of Small Businesses in London has given a warm welcome to chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledge of financial support for self-employed people hit by the coronavirus crisis, made this afternoon. FSB London says “vast numbers” of such workers will have 80 per cent of their incomes covered with earning up to £50,000 a year. Announcing the measures at this afternoon’s Downing Street press briefing, Sunak said the provision will cover 95 per cent of self-employed people in the UK. One drawback is that is don’t become available until June, but FSB London says it is pleased the chancellor listened to its advice. More on this from City AM.
  • Talk of an impending intensive care bed shortage in London has grown common in recent days and now NHS Providers, a national membership body representing hospitals, has said that point is drawing near. An “explosion” in demand combined with high sickness rates among staff could soon overcome even the huge efforts being made to increase capacity in existing hospitals and hospital chief executives are described as being concerned that even the 4,000-bed “field hospital” being set up at the ExCel be full “very quickly”. The BBC has more.
  • NHS Providers say sickness and/or self-isolation rates among London hospital staff are running at 30, 40 and even 50 per cent. Meanwhile, the rate among London Underground staff is just over 30 per cent across the board. In the Met, it is 20 per cent, according to the Met Police Federation. It is easy to imagine something similar among other public sector workers who, unlike hospital staff, are not routinely working with poorly people or, unlike Tube staff, routinely working in confined, crowded spaces underground. Such numbers are truly daunting and, with the peak infection rate yet to be reached, are set to get worse.
  • Suggestions by the Prime Minister and health secretary Matt Hancock and loud assertions by television presenters that Sadiq Khan could and should be running more trains on the Underground seem not to have impressed Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and transport committee chair Caroline Pidgeon. Commenting on TfL staff stats published by the Mayor, she said she had been briefed with exactly the same numbers and upbraided “those trying to make cheap politics of this crisis”.
  • More boroughs are losing patience with people failing to observe social distancing requirements when using their parks. Haringey leader Joseph Ejiofor and Greenwich leader Danny Thorpe have taken to Twitter to point out that these amenities are not at present social venues or skate parks. Meanwhile, the patience of Tower Hamlets Council and local police has run out – the large and historic Victoria Park has been closed, though other parks in the borough remain open for now. The council says it was a difficult decision. There’s been a decent debate about it online.
  • Thorpe has also put out an urgent Twitter appeal for personal protective equipment (PPE) for his borough’s social care staff, working in homes across the borough. He says promised supplies have not arrived, and if individuals or organisations in Greenwich can help out immediately, someone can moved out of a hospital bed, freeing it up for another COVID-19 patient. Read his full thread.
  • A mass #ClapForOurCarers is due to take place at 8:00 tonight. Frank Turner has announced that the first of his livestreamed Facebook gigs to raise money to help London’s small live music venues survive the damage being done to them by Covid-19 will start a little earlier accordingly.

Last updated at 18:35.

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