London Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned Boris Johnson that the capital needs fresh Covid restrictions as early as Monday if it is to avoid a big spike in the spread of the virus.
Khan is also preparing to urge the public to work from home if they can do so, in a switch back to the message used by the government at the height of the lockdown.
New modelling shown to the Mayor suggests that London is no longer two weeks behind hotspots like the north east and greater Manchester, but is instead “two or three days behind”, insiders told HuffPost UK.
Khan is pushing for similar curbs, including 10pm curfews on pubs and a ban on mixing of households, in a desperate bid to impose a firebreak in the spread of Covid.
A Mayoral source said: “It’s clear that cases in London are only moving in one direction, we are now just days behind hotspots in the North West and North East.
“We can’t afford more delay. Introducing new measures now will help slow the spread of the virus and potentially prevent the need for a fuller lockdown like we saw in March, which could seriously damage the economy once again.”
However, many in the civil service as well as big banks and other corporate firms in London have seen staff continue to work remotely.
New restrictions, already in place in greater Manchester and some regions, were extended to Lancashire and the north East in recent days.
Khan is worried about the rapidly changing situation in the city. Whereas data from a few days ago indicated London was two weeks behind hotspots in the north East and North West, new modelling indicates the city may now only be two or three days behind.
The UK recorded 4,422 new daily cases on Saturday and 27 deaths, another sign that the pandemic was beginning to increase its momentum across the country.
Friday was the first time the daily total of positive tests had exceeded 4,000 since 8 May.
Johnson said on Friday that the UK is “now seeing a second wave” of Covid-19, adding: “It’s been inevitable we’d see it in this country.”
He said he did not “want to go into bigger lockdown measures” but that tighter social distancing rules might be necessary.
Within hours, Khan was already warning more urgency was needed.
“I am of the firm view that we should not wait, as happened six months ago, for this virus to again spiral out of control before taking action,” he said.
“The best thing for both public health and the economy is new restrictions imposed early, rather than a full lockdown when it’s too late – but the government must ensure there is a fully functioning testing system.”
Professor Neil Ferguson – whose modelling led to the government ordering the national lockdown in March – said on Saturday that said a second lockdown might be needed “sooner rather than later”
He warned the country is facing a “perfect storm” following the easing of controls over the summer.
The UK introduced a new ‘Rule of Six’ restricting indoor and outdoor gatherings to six people, but it appears not to have had any impact on stemming the spread of the virus.
The government is looking at a temporary two-week “circuit break”, with new controls across England in an attempt to break the chain of transmission and prevent a new spike in the disease.
The move could see hospitality and leisure venues forced to close their doors again. Although the break has been proposed by some to coincide with the October half-term for schools, others suggest much greater urgency is needed.
Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner called for the government to hold an emergency Cobra meeting to look afresh at the science and improve its public messaging so “people can do the right thing”.
“If the government are able to do that, we will back them,” she told the BBC.
Rayner also said it had been “shocking” to see how “monumentally” the government’s test and trace system had failed.
On the eve of Labour’s online ‘Connect’ event that has replaced the annual conference, Keir Starmer told the Sunday Mirror that the PM had to act quickly to get infections under control so that “Christmas is not lost” for millions.
“The PM isn’t up to the job. What people have seen for weeks and months is a pattern of refusing to acknowledge a problem exists, then doing a U-turn, and finally shifting the blame on to someone else,” he said.