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Sadiq Khan Calls for Mandatory Face Masks on Public Transport

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on the Government to re-impose mandatory face masks on public transport and has recommended that members of the public wear them voluntarily in the meantime. Khan has also called on Londoners to protect the NHS this winter by receiving a Covid booster vaccine when it becomes available, as well as to book a place for the annual flu jab. The MailOnline has the story.

The Government has been resistant to bringing in ‘Plan B’ measures, which would see the reintroduction of mandatory facemasks indoors and guidance to work from home and the use of Covid passports.

Mr Khan called for Londoners to get vaccinated against Covid and the flu to protect the NHS this winter.

It comes as official data shows more and more adults in their 30s and 40s are choosing to wear face masks on buses and trains amid spiralling Covid cases.

An Office for National Statistics poll found 33% of middle-aged adults wore coverings while on public transport at the start of September.

But just a month later this had ticked upwards to almost 40%, despite no change in official guidance.

The London Mayor said in a statement that the “deadly virus has not gone away and this winter we’re facing both flu and Covid”.

He added: “The worst thing we can do is to lower our guard, be complacent and underestimate the risk these viruses pose to all of us.

“The situation with Covid in London is so finely balanced that it needs all of us to act together to protect ourselves, our loved ones, the things we enjoy and our NHS this winter.

“That’s why I’m urging all eligible Londoners to have the booster vaccine and flu jab as soon as you are offered it, continue to wear a mask where you can and I’m calling on the Government to put simple and effective steps, such as mandatory face coverings on public transport, in place to halt the spread of the virus now.”

The Mayor’s comments came after a leading scientist suggested measures in ‘Plan B’ may not be needed if data continues to show a decline in cases.

Worth reading in full.

Masks Will Stay on London Transport for “As Long as the Virus Is Still With Us”, Says Sadiq Khan

London commuters hoping to return to normality after July 19th are in for disappointment, as Sadiq Khan says face masks will remain compulsory on transport networks within the city beyond “Freedom Day” and for “as long as the virus is still with us”. London is the first city to announce that it will continue mandating mask-wearing after this date. Greater Manchester looks set to be the next, with Mayor Andy Burnham refusing to “rule out” keeping restrictions. BBC News has the story.

Sadiq Khan said he was not prepared to put Tube, tram and other transport users at risk by relaxing the rules on face coverings.

Face masks have been mandatory on public transport for the past year to reduce the spread of the virus.

But those rules will be replaced with Government guidance advising passengers to wear masks only on busy services.

England is removing most of its Covid restrictions next Monday, and while Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he expects masks to be worn in crowded places, such as on a busy Tube train, their use will no longer be compulsory.

But Mr Khan has gone further and made it a condition of carriage for the Tube, bus, tram, DLR, Overground and TfL Rail.

This means that, despite the easing of restrictions on July 19th, it will be listed as a condition in a legal agreement between TfL and its customers.

Mr Khan said: “We know from the Government’s own advisors and from the World Health Organisation, that wearing a face covering indoors does reduce transmissions.

“It leads to greater public safety and greater public confidence as well.

“As long as the virus is still with us, and as long as we’re still concerned about the virus being transmitted, we will make it compulsory.”

He said he was “confident you will see from Monday high levels of the rules being followed just like there have been since last June”.

TfL’s 400 enforcement officers will deny those without a face covering from using London transport, under the plan.

TfL staff and bus drivers will continue to remind passengers that masks are a requirement, Mr Khan said.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told Times Radio this morning that Sadiq Khan’s decision “makes sense”. He is quoted in the Guardian:

We expect carriers to provide rules or what we call conditions of carriage appropriate to their own circumstances. And obviously, London Underground is a particularly crowded network. And, of course, we said people should wear masks in crowded areas. So just in the same way as the airlines have made it a stipulation – an ongoing stipulation – we expected – indeed invited TfL – to do the same thing. So no surprises there. And if you think about it, it makes sense.

Also worth reading in full.

Mask Mandate Should Stay After July 19th, Says Labour’s Kate Green

Labour believes mandatory mask-wearing should stay in place after July 19th so as to keep the rules clear and to provide people with a sense of reassurance about their safety.

Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green told Sky News yesterday that allowing people to choose whether to wear a mask would be a “recipe for confusion” and “confrontations”, and that it would be much “clearer” to keep rules in place for public places after “Freedom Day”.

She added that, when on public transport, wearing masks and seeing others wearing masks is “a source of great reassurance and people want to do it”.

Despite appealing for clarity, Kate has created more confusion by suggesting that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has decided to keep mask mandates in the city’s metro – a claim Burnham’s team has denied. Manchester authorities are, however, “strongly urging people to wear face coverings”, as is the Government more generally.

And it doesn’t stop there. Kate also said Labour believes social distancing measures should continue “as far as is possible” and that Test and Trace should be more – not less – sensitive. Do they ever want this to end?

Tens of Thousands Demand Their “Freedom to Dance” in London Protest

The protest isn’t over in London. Today, tens of thousands of people have turned out to a party to demonstrate against the Government’s attack on the live music industry through the imposition of numerous lockdowns and the continuation of social distancing measures. The MailOnline has the story.

Crowds blocked Regent Street during the FreedomToDance march organised by Save Our Scene, demonstrating against the ongoing Covid restrictions that are keeping nightclubs and music venues closed in order to stop the spread of the virus.

The lively protest saw open-sided trucks rigged with speakers providing a mobile club atmosphere for the punters as they poured out onto the streets without masks to protest against coronavirus restrictions on nightlife.

Young protestors were seen puffing on balloons as they walked along in the festival-feel crowd on one of London’s busiest shopping streets.   

Others were seen brandishing signs reading “let the music play”, “music is medicine” and “everybody’s free to feel good, but not dance”.

The results from 10 Government-led trial events were recently released and identified only 28 positive Covid test results among 58,000 participants. So when will the Government do as these protesters ask and “let the music play”?

The MailOnline report is worth reading in full.

Westminster City Council Advertises Contract for Building of Body Storage Facilities in Case of an “Excess Deaths Situation”

Amid warnings of a third wave of Covid infections in the U.K., fuelled largely by the fear of the Indian Delta variant and, of course, the prospect of new variants, such as the one recently discovered in Russia, Westminster City Council has advertised a new contract opportunity for the construction of “temporary body storage facilities” in the event of an “excess deaths situation”. Here is some of the information provided on the Gov.uk website.

The Authority seeks to procure a framework agreement for temporary body storage in the event of an excess deaths situation for the 32 London boroughs and the City of London, led by Westminster City Council. The framework agreement will appoint a single provider and will be for a period of four years. This will be a contingency contract, only called upon in the event that an excess deaths situation arises in the future and existing local body storage capacity needs to be augmented.

The over-arching aim of this tender is to provide a single framework supplier that will be able to provide temporary body storage facilities to house deceased in the event of an excess deaths situation. The deceased will be stored with dignity and respect, at locations to be determined based on local London needs at the time and will require some design elements to accommodate local site conditions and constraints, while being capable of rapid deployment, construction and commissioning to an agreed standard. This framework will be procured by the Authority as the pan-London lead, but all London local authorities may call off against the framework.

This will be a contingency cover framework and as such, there is no minimum guarantee of any level of spend or call-off under the framework agreement.

The Council estimates that the total value of this contract (excluding VAT) will be around £6 million and it is not set for renewal. But how likely is it that this is just another local government overreaction?

Worth reading in full.

London Has Zero Covid Deaths on One Day for First Time in Six Months

Zero deaths from Covid have been reported in London for the first time in six months, according to Public Health England (PHE). BBC News has the story.

PHE figures for March 28th showed no deaths had been registered of patients within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

At the height of the crisis last April, about 230 deaths a day linked to the virus were recorded in London.

“This is a fantastic milestone, but we’re a long way from returning to normal,” one doctor said.

It is the first time the daily Covid figures have shown zero deaths in the capital since September.

Dr Jim Down of University College Hospital says that, while Covid cannot be forgotten about, the focus of hospitals should start shifting to the non-Covid health crisis.

We’re down to about seven Covid patients on the intensive care unit and we’re expecting them to get better.

It’s a wonderful feeling but it sets up new challenges. 

The backlog for people needing hip replacements and cancer treatment is vast. You need to start bringing them back in but keep the hospitals ready in case of a third wave.

Professor Karol Sikora has similarly stressed the urgency of dealing with the huge backlog of non-Covid patients.

Over the last year, politicians have been adopting untried and untested policies, the consequences of which none of us can yet fully grasp. The main aim, of course, of these extraordinary lockdown measures has been to suppress Covid in order to reduce pressure on our hospitals. That has been the metric on which Government approval has been judged.

Whether or not you agree with every restriction, it is clear that this focus has sucked the oxygen away from other pressing health issues. Covid required a response unlike anything we have seen in modern times. But was it right that this happen at the expense of so many other illnesses which have torn apart millions of families? 

Too often it has been framed as Covid or cancer; it does not need to be like this. We turned the country on its head to deal with this virus; we now need to tackle the non-Covid health crisis with the same vigour.

Currently, the number of people waiting to receive hospital treatment in England stands at 4.6 million (a record high).

Worth reading in full.