Londoners are following Government advice to stay at home and avoid going into the office, data suggested today as it emerged Underground journeys are now at just a fifth of pre-pandemic levels.
Public transport usage is now at 20 per cent for the Tube and 34 per cent for buses – also well down compared to the first day of tier four last month, December 16, which had levels of 31 per cent and 53 per cent respectively.
And on the first working day of 2021, traffic data from TomTom showed congestion was at less than 20 per cent during rush hour this morning, compared to an average of 53 per cent at the same time last year.
The lack of cars on the road and passengers on public transport has now doubt been affected by all London primary schools remaining shut this week as the capital battles with high levels of coronavirus infections.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has backed the prospect of a third national lockdown, telling Sky News and LBC today that Conservative former health secretary Jeremy Hunt was correct with his calls for the new measures.
Mr Khan said: ‘The Government must do whatever it takes to deal with the virus. Time and again it’s been shown that it’s better to act early than to act late. A full national lockdown would save lives and help protect our NHS.’
It comes as cases rose in two-thirds of London boroughs over Christmas, with the number of Covid-19 patients in London hospitals hitting a peak of 5,524 last Wednesday, above the first wave peak of 5,201 on April 9.
Southwark station in Central London was eerily quiet today with no one to be seen on the Jubilee line platform
A man is seen next to the ticket gates at London Waterloo Underground station today as the capital continues in tier four
The roads are very quiet in London’s Waterloo outside The Old Vic theatre today as people continue to stay at home
The number of new cases per 100,000 people in the capital has increased to a record of 902.5, up from 817 one week ago. This is more than double the average figure for England of 400 cases per 100,000 people.
Seven boroughs of London saw significant increases of more than a quarter in weekly new cases, with Brent up by 32 per cent and Ealing, Barnet, Sutton and Newham all up 27 per cent, reported the Evening Standard.
Other areas of the capital suffering were Harrow, up 25 per cent, and Hounslow, up 26 per cent. Meanwhile Barking and Dagenham had the highest rate of new cases in London at 1,298 per 100,000 people.
But there was some good news in that overall cases in London are rising more slowly than during the run-up to Christmas, with a 10 per cent rise in the week to December 30 after they nearly doubled up to December 20.
Yesterday there were 81 people in London who died within 28 days of the positive test, which leaves the capital with a total death toll of at least 8,692. Some 463 deaths have been recorded over the past week.
A quiet Jubilee line train on the London Underground in the capital today as tier four restrictions remain in place
A handful of people are seen on the platform and on a Jubilee line train at Southwark station in Central London today
An empty set of escalators at London Waterloo station on the London Underground today as tier four remains in place
All of London’s primary schools and those in some surrounding areas worst hit by Covid-19 will not reopen until January 18, with students elsewhere in England expected to return to class this week.
Mr Khan said Ministers must ‘get a grip’ on people arriving in the UK from abroad to stop the spread of coronavirus, as he backed calls for a full national lockdown.
He expressed his frustration about the ‘ease’ with which foreign travellers can come into the capital, and demanded stricter quarantining and testing regimes.
He said powers relating to quarantine rules lie with the Government, rather than the Mayor’s Office, and that his calls have so far ‘fallen on deaf ears’.
Mr Khan also criticised the Government for failing to be clear with its messaging on what people need to do – and insisted that police are enforcing the rules.
Traffic data from TomTom showed congestion was at less than 20 per cent during rush hour this morning (far right of graph)
Coronavirus case rates have soared in recent weeks in London, hitting a daily peak of nearly 20,000 last week
He said a ‘full national lockdown’ akin to the one in March is needed because hospitals are now ‘as busy – if not busier – than they were in March, April and May’, despite the restrictions being ‘less onerous’.
On international travel, he said: ‘Other countries that have been affected have not allowed people to come in unless they properly quarantine for a period of time and there is proper testing.
‘If you compare and contrast what happens at our airports in relation to the airports in, for example, Seoul, there is a big difference.
‘So I’m really frustrated, as the mayor of a city with a number of airports serving us – Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, City, plus the Eurostar – at the ease with which people can come in to our city, potentially with new strains of the virus.
‘And that’s what we’ve been calling on the Government to make sure they stop the virus coming in through other means, and that’s why it is really important for them also to get a grip with international travel in relation to this virus.’
Hospital admissions for Covid-19 have also soared in London in recent weeks, rising to a daily peak of 739 last week
Deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test are also rising in London and got up to nearly 90 in a day last week
He added: ‘I’m asking for much more strict controls in relation to those arriving in our country, including not least far more testing at the point of arrival and proper quarantining before they leave the airport firstly for the testing and before they can leave their homes.’
Today, Boris Johnson warned of ‘tough, tough’ weeks to come as the Government came under pressure to announce another national lockdown amid concerns the new variant coronavirus is spreading out of control.
The Prime Minister said there was ‘no question’ about the need for tougher measures which would be announced ‘in due course’. His comments came as the national rollout of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine began.
The latest data show a 33 per cent rise in the number of confirmed coronavirus patients in hospital in England between Christmas Day and Saturday, January 2 – figures which have caused alarm in Whitehall and the NHS.
The Government hopes to get the virus under control while vaccinating as many people as possible in the hope that things will appear brighter in spring.
The roads outside London Waterloo station are also quiet today as employees continue to work from home
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured in Hackney in July last year) has backed the prospect of a third national lockdown
Ministers have said the NHS has the capacity to deliver two million doses a week of the Oxford vaccine once it receives supplies from the manufacturers.
Also today, Mr Johnson insisted the risk to teachers was no greater than to anyone else as the Government came under pressure to keep the majority of pupils out of class and to switch to remote education.
The Prime Minister said the argument for keeping schools open was ‘powerful’ and one of the things he looks back on with the greatest misgivings was closing primary schools in the first wave of the pandemic.
His comments came as a coalition of education unions warned that bringing all pupils back to school could fuel the pandemic and put teachers at ‘serious risk’ of falling ill amid the new variant of Covid-19.