London lockdown: First borough bans household mixing as capital battles spread of virus

A LONDON borough has become the capital's first area to urge residents not to mix with those from other households – in a sign that the city is heading into lockdown.

Council chiefs in Tower Hamlets, east London have told locals not to visit each other's houses "unless absolutely necessary" as the city battles a rise in infections.

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The borough's mayor John Biggs warned residents the order is a "matter of life and death" – and said they must "do everything in their power to protect each other".

It comes as the Prime Minister today refused to rule out "tougher action" to stop the spread.

In an open letter in the Evening Standard, he wrote: “Despite a fall over the summer, we are seeing cases of Covid-19 rise and we need to accept that the situation is once again worsening.

"Tower Hamlets now has one of the highest levels of Covid-19 in London.

“As a second rise in infections hits us, we must take all steps necessary to limit the spread of the virus and protect those most at risk.”

In Tower Hamlets, 143 new infections were recorded in the seven days up to September 28, the equivalent of 44 cases per 100,000 people.

That's up from a rate of 38.5 cases per 100,000 people in the seven days to September 21.

It comes as virus cases soar across the capital, raising fears of tough new lockdown measures.

In the most recent week of complete data, which ends September 23, 2,935 cases were identified in London.

This compares with 1,922 for the previous week.

East London has been hit the hardest by infections but other parts of the capital have also experienced an increase.

London mayor Sadiq Khan issued a call at the weekend for immediate action to stem the spread of the virus in the city, saying the capital was at a "tipping point".

Covid rates in the city are still lower than the worst hotspots in the North but are steadily going up, with hospital admissions also on the rise.

Ministers are expected to meet to discuss the issue.

And today, Boris Johnson said: "I think we need to see how the package of measures we've got in place feed through and whether they start to have an effect.

"I don't rule out taking tougher action if we have to, but we want to keep as much of life going as normal as possible for as long as possible."

But Mr Biggs said it's time for officials in Tower Hamlets to "take further action".

"I am clear that the current national rules are a minimum, and my advice to you all is to do everything in your power to protect each other," he said.

"Our individual actions have consequences for us all.

“The next few months will be very challenging.

"Without a vaccine or more effective treatment, our primary weapon against the virus is responsible behaviour.

"Measures to curb the spread of the virus will only work if people follow them.”

It comes after the Labour leader of Redbridge council, Cllr Jas Athwal, called for far stricter measures to stem the rise in cases.

He told Radio 4: "Mixing face-to-face should be stopped immediately.

"We are seeing the pandemic take hold."

Across England, stats experts say coronavirus infections are "starting to level off".

Last week there were 8,400 new cases of Covid-19 every day, the Office for National Statistics says – down 12 per cent on the 9,600 daily cases recorded in the previous week.

But the rate of new confirmed infections in London has increased in 28 boroughs, new figures released this week reveal.

The rolling seven-day rate of Covid-19 cases shows that the rate of new cases per 100,000 people is highest in the east London boroughs of Redbridge, Barking and Dagenham, and Newham.

According to the latest figures, Newham recorded the highest number of new weekly cases – up 42.1 per cent from 131 to 186 – but Redbridge remains the worst-hit local authority in the capital.

The number of new cases confirmed in Camden, Bexley, and Kensington and Chelsea has fallen by 11 per cent.

But elsewhere, the situation was far more troubling.

In Greenwich, weekly cases jumped 87 per cent, from 45 to 84, while Hounslow recorded 140 new cases, compared to 78 last week – marking a 79 per cent increase.

Cases in Richmond have also risen 133 per cent from 27 and 63, and Hammersmith recorded 70 new cases, up from 40 last week, marking a 75 per cent increase.

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