Sadiq Khan has defended London’s Covid-19 jab take-up rate and said the capital’s theatres, live music venues pubs and bars “should open” fully on 19 July, while urging Londoners to continue to take opportunities to receive first and second doses of vaccine as quickly as possible.
Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show this morning, the Mayor also said he was “reassured” that Wembley Stadium can safely accommodate more than 60,000 fans for the semi-finals and final of the delayed Euro 2020 international football competition early next month.
Marr asserted that the Delta variant of Covid-19 “is everywhere around London” and, apparently referring to figures published by the BBC, said that “around 40 per cent of Londoners are not vaccinated”. However, Public Health England data compiled by the Greater London Authority show that as of 23 June 73.6 per cent Londoners had received a first vaccine jab and 47.6 per cent had received a second.
Responding to Marr’s accusation that “London is holding the whole country back at the moment”, the Mayor acknowledged that London’s vaccination rate is lower than elsewhere but not as far behind that of the rest of the country as the BBC presenter had claimed.
The Mayor added that the capital’s relatively low take-up can be attributed to the average age of its population being younger than those of other parts of the country – which means proportionately fewer Londoners were initially eligible for vaccines – and many of its residents being more likely to move home and therefore less likely to be registered with a local GP and be notified about appointments. The same outcome arises from London being “a global city” with a “large migrant population”, Khan explained.
Khan added that “the good news, though, is last weekend we had more than 135,000 Londoners receiving a jab in our mass vaccination centres,” and listed major football grounds, including those of Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur and the London Stadium home of West Ham in the east of the capital. Arsenal has been offering tours of its Emirates Stadium in Islington to anyone over 18 who visits for their first jab. “The key thing is for all of us to do whatever we can to encourage Londoners to be fully protect, so have one if not both jabs before July the nineteenth,” Khan told Marr.
Marr reminded Khan that in early June he, along with London business leaders, had written to Boris Johnson urging him to stick to further relaxing Covid restrictions from 21 June, as the government had previously intended. The Prime Minister announced three days later that the easing process would be delayed by four weeks until 19 July. Asked if he thought 5 July would be an acceptable to date to go ahead, Khan said “the reality is” that it is “unlikely”, but that “we should, hopefully, fingers crossed, be able to fully re-open on July the nineteenth.”
Questioning the Mayor about Wembley and Euro 2020’s final stages, Marr incorrectly said that “Wembley is to open fully, that is with 90,000 people inside it,” and asked if that would be wise. Khan told him that “the current agreement” is for around 67,000 spectators to be let in and that this had been reached by the authorities responsible, “the government working closely with UEFA, Brent Council [ and] Public Health England”.
The Mayor, who does not decide how many people should be allowed into Wembley Stadium, said he was “reassured” that the venue would be Covid safe and that “it’s going to be great for our city”. Asked by Marr about London’s theatres, Khan said he had attended one two weeks ago and that they, along with “live music venues, as well as pubs and well as bars” should be completely re-opened on 19 July, to help the economy enjoy “a rapid recovery”.
“We know there will be a huge increase in infections in that period, but because of the vaccine it’s still OK?” Marr asked. Khan replied: “One of the reasons the Prime minister took the advice of his experts to delay by four weeks was for more of us to receive one if not two doses of the vaccine. This gives us time to make sure that as many of us possible are fully protected.”
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