We are at a critical moment in our fight against COVID-19 in London. The virus is spreading rapidly in every corner of our city. Hospital admissions are rising and more Londoners are being admitted into Intensive Care Units.
Unfortunately, there are no good options. The disastrous failure of the test, trace and isolate system leaves us with little choice but to introduce more restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. Time and again it has been shown that it is better to act earlier than to act too late – which would cost more lives and damage more livelihoods. We are not willing to put Londoners’ lives at risk and so we must do all we can to minimise economic damage.
That is why, following discussions between me, ministers and our city’s senior health advisers and council leaders, the Government will move London into ‘Tier 2’ restrictions - which is alert level high – from Saturday 17 October.
I know that many businesses are already managing the impacts of social distancing and other COVID safety measures and I’m acutely aware that these restrictions will have a significant impact on all of our city’s businesses. Our city experienced the worst of COVID-19 back in Spring, which meant our small businesses suffered and people’s livelihoods were at stake. It’s not a choice between saving the economy and saving people’s lives. The only way London’s businesses will be able to survive this crisis is if the Government takes the right measures to stop the spread of the virus now, and provides the full financial support needed to prop up the economy and protect jobs.
That’s why I wrote to the Prime Minister this week calling on him to come forward now with more financial support for affected businesses here in London. The new Job Support Scheme announced recently will not help businesses in areas with ‘Tier 2’ measures such as London, where sectors such as hospitality, leisure and culture will clearly be severally impacted. I believe that the furlough scheme, supporting 80 per cent of wages as it was originally, should be continued for the worst affected sectors, and that the business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses should be extended to next year.
I continue to support businesses through the Pay it Forward London crowdfunding platform and the accompanying Back to Business Fund matching scheme. Already over £875,000 has been raised by over 330 businesses, with the support of over 12,000 Londoners.
These new restrictions will require yet more sacrifices. But the failure of the Government’s test, trace and isolate system means that these measures, based on public health and scientific experts’ advice, are absolutely necessary to protect Londoners’ lives.
Please visit London.gov for advice on what the new alert level could mean for your business. I have shared a version of this guidance on social media that you can find here. For small businesses, you can access support and guidance through the London Business Hub.
I want to thank you for playing your part to help defeat this deadly virus.
London is strong. We got through this before and I know we can get through this again, together.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan