Sadiq Khan has asked the national government for “further information, detail and assurance” about how the capital would cope with local outbreaks of Covid-19 infections within Greater London as lockdown restrictions are eased.
In a letter to health secretary Matt Hancock, the Mayor has asked for “clarity on the devolved powers to enforce local measures” such as asking people to again stay in their homes, how government financial support schemes would operate within specified areas and what additional resources would be made available to London’s cash-strapped local authorities.
Khan’s request coincides with a re-tightening of lockdown measures across the city of Leicester in response to a surge in cases of the coronavirus there as the rest of England anticipates a greater loosening of rules from Saturday, 4 July.
“We need more information about the government’s plans for mobilising and delivering the response to local outbreaks,” Khan wrote. “We cannot expect local outbreaks to align with borough boundaries, so given London’s geography it is essential that we are able to establish wider coordination across the city to respond appropriately to each outbreak.”
Leicester has a population of 330,000, which is less than that of at least five of London’s 32 boroughs, according to recent Office for National Statistics estimates. The total resident population of Greater London is just over nine million and this is boosted during normal working day times by around one million commuters.
Khan’s letter reiterates to Hancock “the importance and impact of working together at a regional level” and points out that London was swiftly identified as being a couple of weeks ahead of the rest of the country at the beginning of the pandemic, saying that “partners quickly came together to take swift and decisive action”.
However, he argues that the prospect of further, more localised outbreaks in particular parts of London will need different forms of response and that these cannot be provided to best effect without “more information about the government’s plans for mobilising and delivering the response to local outbreaks”. He adds that any absence of clarity about “the powers and resources at London’s disposal to manage any ‘local lockdown’ or enhanced social distancing measures”, will lead to a lack of public confidence.
The letter ends with a request for “Access to timely and dynamic data to support planning and immediate response”, including “readily available and regularly updated regional R-rates and local growth rates”, and an expression of concern about the efficacy of the government’s test and trace service. Khan does, however, allow that a recent meetings with programme chiefs Dido Harding and health minister Lord Bethell had produced a welcome “detailed update”.
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