No 10 issues Covid Christmas shopping warning with London on brink of Tier 3 after surge in cases


Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases. 

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week. 

It means London is ahead of regions, such as the West Midlands, which are already in Tier 3 restrictions. 

But ahead of what is expected to be a big shopping weekend on Saturday and Sunday, with Christmas just two weeks ago, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman urged shoppers to be cautious.  

Asked by MailOnline if shoppers should be careful when out on the high street, he said ‘absolutely’.

It came as Britain’s daily coronavirus cases increased by 33 per cent on Friday compared to seven days ago. A total of 21,672 new cases were announced, up slightly from 20,964 yesterday. 

Christmas shoppers were warned by Downing Street on Friday to be careful as London teetered on the brink of being moved into Tier 3 amid a surge in coronavirus cases. Pictured: Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street on Friday

Mr Johnson’s spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, ‘I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic. 

‘We would urge the public to follow the guidelines in relation to their activity to ensure that we are able to continue to drive down the transmission rate and protect communities.’

However, he stopped short of telling shoppers to avoid busy times. 

‘I wouldn’t get into the discussions around telling people how to shop but I would just reiterate what we would say around ensuring that people follow the guidelines that are in place,’ he said. 

The warning came after hospitality chiefs said that moving London into Tier 3 restrictions – which would see pubs and restaurants forced to close once again – would have a ‘devastating effect’. 

A decision on whether the capital will be moved into Tier 3 will be made on December 16.  

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week

The case rate per 100,000 people in the capital stood at 191.8 on December 6, up from 158.1 the previous week

Teenagers have been blamed for the huge uptick in cases, prompting a mass testing programme to be rolled out in secondary schools in the worst-hit boroughs.

MPs were briefed on Thursday night to ‘expect the worse’ after a surveillance survey by PHE revealed that the capital now had the highest rate of coronavirus infections in England. 

It is understood many MPs representing constituencies in the capital are poised to lobby Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep it in Tier 2.

They believe the death rates in London are comparatively low and the NHS is able to cope.

A move to Tier 3 would be devastating for the pubs, restaurants and shopping sectors, especially so soon after the second national lockdown. 

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The impact of the restrictions on the hospitality sector has been so severe that it has effectively halved the country’s economic growth. Ours is the only sector seeing real negative growth. 

Tier 3 would ‘devastate’ London’s bars and restaurants 

The government was warned on Friday to think hard about the ‘devastating effect’ on the hospitality industry of coronavirus restrictions, as London teetered on the brink of Tier 3.

Teenagers have been blamed for the huge uptick in cases, prompting a mass testing programme to be rolled out in secondary schools in the worst-hit boroughs.

MPs were briefed on Thursday night to ‘expect the worse’ after a surveillance survey by PHE revealed that the capital now had the highest rate of coronavirus infections in England. 

It is understood many MPs representing constituencies in the capital are poised to lobby Prime Minister Boris Johnson to keep it in Tier 2.

They believe the death rates in London are comparatively low and the NHS is able to cope.

A move to Tier 3 would be devastating for the pubs, restaurants and shopping sectors, especially so soon after the second national lockdown. 

UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls said: ‘The impact of the restrictions on the hospitality sector has been so severe that it has effectively halved the country’s economic growth. Ours is the only sector seeing real negative growth. 

‘The restrictions being placed on us are having a devastating effect and go well beyond anything being experienced in other sectors. The frightening reality is that these figures are going to look tame compared to those for November and December when the lockdown was in effect and as the new, harsher tier system began to bite. 

‘The restrictions being placed on us are having a devastating effect and go well beyond anything being experienced in other sectors. 

The frightening reality is that these figures are going to look tame compared to those for November and December when the lockdown was in effect and as the new, harsher tier system began to bite.

‘The Government needs to look carefully at these figures before making a decision to plunge more areas into higher tiers – the burden of which falls almost exclusively on hospitality businesses.’

Covid-19 cases rose in 28 of London’s 32 boroughs in the most recent seven-day period, with Havering recording the highest incidence at 389 infections per 100,000 people. 

It is followed by Barking and Dagenham, at 319.9 and Waltham Forest at 313.7.

During the most recent week, cases roses most quickly in Hackney – going from 129.62 to 195.98 (51 per cent) – and the northern boroughs of Enfield (163.57 to 243.56) and Haringey (141.08 to 208.82).

Essex also appears to be teetering on the brink of a Tier 3 lockdown, with the county-wide infection rate jumping by a third in the last week, from 145.31 to 195.14.

In a joint statement with leader of Westminster City Council, London Mayor Sadiq Khan urged shoppers to ‘work together’ to control the spread of Covid-19 by wearing face masks and observing social distancing. 

They said: ‘With cases rising in many parts of the capital, it is vital that we all work together to control its spread. Otherwise we may face tougher restrictions, which would greatly harm shops in the West End, our hospitality sector and the whole of London’s economy.

‘We are appealing directly to Londoners – when out shopping it is essential that you follow the rules. 

‘You must wear a face covering in shops and keep a two-metre distance wherever possible. 

‘We have worked to make the West End COVID secure with wider pavements – including making Regent Street car-free on Saturdays – and regular signage to help Londoners keep their distance.

And amid the fears about London going into Tier 3, which would devastate the capital’s businesses, further economic pressure was added by news that the value of the pound suffered its biggest daily drop in months following warnings about a possible no-deal Brexit.  

The pound’s value fell from 1.3177 dollars compared to 1.3293 dollars at the previous close, a drop of 0.9 per cent.

Meanwhile the euro was 0.9167 pounds compared to 0.9116 pounds yesterday.

The fall represents the biggest for the past three months and good drop further as the Brexit deal deadline nears.  

The crisis came hours after the Prime Minister warned of a ‘strong possibility’ of a no-deal Brexit because of a failure to reach an agreement with the EU. 

Mr Johnson's spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, 'I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic

Mr Johnson’s spokesman urged the public to follow the safety guidelines, saying, ‘I think we have been clear throughout the pandemic

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