Mayor calls for honesty with the public as he lays out new work to address the challenges of central London in the immediate and longer term

By September 7, 2020NEWS
  • Mayor warns that the Government must be honest with the public about the ongoing deadly health and economic crisis and says there are no easy answers
  • City Hall research shows the main reason Londoners are reluctant to return to the city centre and offices are because they do not feel safe because of the risk of catching the virus
  • Mayor announces a major new survey of London’s businesses to understand the reality of numbers returning to offices in immediate and longer-term
  • Mayor highlights work to boost confidence: by TfL to make the public transport network as safe as possible and by his London is Open campaign encouraging Londoners to safely visit cultural attractions and hospitality

Today the Mayor asks the Government and those in positions of power to be honest with the public about the reality of the situation the nation faces, with an ongoing health crisis that we cannot be complacent about due to the threat of a deadly second wave and also an economic crisis which is being particularly felt in city centres.

He will say that “Londoners are not stupid” they see what is happening elsewhere in the world with Covid-19 cases rising across Europe, and they read stories in the papers on the Government’s own modelling showing the next phase of the virus this autumn and winter could be even worse than the first.

Research by City Hall shows the biggest barrier to the economic recovery is fear of infection. Two-thirds of Londoners view the virus as at least a moderate risk to themselves (64 per cent), and nearly 90 per cent as a risk to others (86 per cent). When asked what would encourage them to return to life as normal, and to start travelling to central London more, the most common answers prove the problem: lower prevalence of the virus, smaller crowds and more people wearing face coverings.

The Mayor will say that this is why ‘berating people or shouting at them to return to central London is a counterproductive approach. It simply won’t work’. He will say that the only thing that will work is giving people confidence that it truly is safe – now and for the future. Most urgently that means we need a fully functioning test, trace and isolate system that works and a clear and consistent message in place from the Government now to deal with the risk the virus poses.

Businesses have told City Hall that rather than politicians threatening employees to return to the workplace, they need sustained support from Government that recognises the hugely difficult balancing act of increasing activity in London’s economy, while doing all they can to protect people’s health. Right now the Mayor and officials in City Hall continue to plan for how we would respond to a large resurgence of the virus over the winter – which could last longer than the first outbreak.

The ‘grown up approach’ required now is to properly assess what support London’s businesses need now and over the coming months, and using this assessment  to put in place a package of support to see businesses through and protect jobs until we have tackled this virus for good.

The Mayor is today commissioning a major survey of London’s businesses, exploring the safe capacity of our workplaces under current Government guidelines. In order to understand what ‘back to work’ really looks like in central London, and how many people we can realistically expect to be going into central London to work, it’s vital to understand how many people can actually physically go back into their workplaces with the social distancing rules in place. This work will provide a major snapshot of the position of London offices now, and also where businesses expect to be in six months. It will also show what more City Hall and Government can do to help businesses.

In the short-term the Mayor and TfL will continue doing everything possible to make central London and public transport in particular as safe as it can be.

TfL has introduced a rigorous cleaning process and there are lots of times during the day that the network is very quiet allowing Londoners to safely visit cultural attractions and hospitality more than they currently are.

City’s Hall’s re-launched London is Open Campaign is encouraging people to return safely to London’s wonderful venues and cultural institutions that are really struggling with reduced footfall across the capital.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “What businesses are telling me is that rather than politicians threatening employees to return to the workplace, they need sustained support from Government that recognises the hugely difficult balancing act of increasing activity in London’s economy, while doing all they can to protect people’s health.

“Londoners aren’t stupid – they read about the rising number of cases across Europe and predictions that a second wave here in the UK could be even worse than the first. That’s why berating people or shouting at them to return to central London is a counterproductive approach. It simply won’t work.

“I’m focused on working with TfL to make sure transport is as safe as it can possibly be and to let Londoners know that they can they can visit London’s cultural attractions and hospitality businesses more than they currently are, particularly at times when the transport network is quiet.

“We must be honest that the health and economic crises caused by this pandemic are interlinked and cannot be separated. The truth is, as long as social distancing rules are in place, there is a limit to how many people can safely return to workplaces. This is the reality we have to face as we plan for our city’s future over the coming months.”

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