LONDON could face curfews to stop a coronavirus second wave – as 500,000 students are set to arrive in the capital.
Professor Kevin Fenton, the London director of Public Health England, today warned that further restrictions could be imposed in order to avoid strict local lockdowns.
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In an interview with the Evening Standard, Professor Fenton urged Londoners to “pull together” to prevent a surge in cases as infections in other parts of the country saw a steep rise in the past week.
Once the UK’s epicentre of the pandemic in mid-March, the capital has seen its infection rate remain stable amid a sustained increase in transmission in the North West of England and East Midlands.
However, data from Public Health England reported by the Standard on Monday shows a steady increase in the weekly number of cases in all but ten boroughs of the city.
Professor Fenton hailed Londoners’ efforts at containing the virus as “phenomenal”, but admitted that the arrival of 500,000 university students in the coming weeks posed a “challenge” for health authorities.
Rates of transmission are higher among people aged 17 to 29, he added, as fears grow that this could spread to at-risk groups and cause an uptick in hospital admissions.
Professor Fenton said that his priority was to avoid a local lockdown being imposed – and stressed that other restrictions could help reduce the rates of transmission.
He told the Standard: “Before we get to that stage there are many other things that you can do in order to help to reduce the risk of transmission and contain your outbreak.
“In some areas which have seen resurgence there have been limits placed on the amount of time you can spend socialising.
“In some it might be local curfews so you’re not out drinking until the wee hours of the morning.”
It comes as The Sun reported earlier this week that pubs could face a 9pm curfew should the government’s ‘Rule of Six’ fail to sufficiently reduce transmission.
Professor Fenton added that restrictions were likely to target hard-hit areas at “borough and sub-regional levels”, but that certain rules could take a “pan-London approach”.
A spokesperson for No10 said they would continue to keep measures under review depending on the rate of the transmission of the virus.
The spokesperson said: “We will continue to keep the transmission rate under review. We introduced the rule of six. We will keep that under review.
“We keep all regions under constant review, we have introduced local lockdowns in local areas.
“Where we see spikes in local areas we will take action.”
Bolton, in Greater Manchester, has seen pubs, restaurants and other hospitality venues limited to offering takeaway only following a spike in cases – and they must close to customers between 10pm and 5am.
Professor Fenton also admitted that, in the capital, testing demand was “much greater” than capacity and tests were only going “where they need to be”.
It comes as testing infrastructure nationally faces the threat of collapse.
Severe test shortages have left the government’s Operational Moonshot plan for ten million swabs a day in chaos, as MPs branded the system “bloody mess”.
Swabs for many will be rationed as Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted the crisis will last into winter.
No tests were available in 46 out of 48 of the nation’s worst hotspots as the fiasco spiralled.
It comes just days after the government tightened restrictions nationally for the first time since the easing of lockdown in the Spring.
New rules introduced from Monday limit the amount of people from different households who can meet in a group to just six – down from the government’s previous cap of thirty.