London MPs have been told that the capital will move into the strictest coronavirus tier restrictions, meaning that restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafes, must close, from 00.01 on Wednesday 16 December. It comes just 11 days since restaurants in the capital reopened after a month of national lockdown.
Restaurants and other hospitality venues will be able to remain open for takeaway, delivery, and collection. No indoor meeting permitted.
It is understood that the next review on restrictions in England will take place on 23 December, which is a week sooner than the review every 14 days, which had previously been the timetable laid out by the government.
Health secretary Matt Hancock is expected to confirm the decision in the House of Commons at 3:30 p.m. today, though BBC News has reported the development was communicated by Hancock to London MPs at a meeting during the last hour.
It comes after ministers and officials said that they were “deeply concerned about a sharp rise of COVID-19 cases across the capital.”
Some council leaders in the capital are understood to be so alarmed at a projected rise in infections that they will push for a so-called “tier three plus,” with tougher restrictions.
In an interview this morning, London mayor Sadiq Khan urged ministers to act with “open eyes” to avoid damaging the capital’s economy. He added that tier three could have a “catastrophic consequence” for hospitality, culture and some retail and expected financial compensation for businesses affected by the announcement.
Chief executive of trade body UK Hospitality, Kate Nicholls told BBC News that it was “obviously devastating news for those businesses,” adding that many restaurants and pubs had spent “hundreds of thousands of pounds when they opened 11 days ago, preparing for Christmas... restaffing and [purchasing] food and drink” which could now go to waste.
Nicholls said this was the busiest period of the year for hospitality businesses and the closure of them will wipe £2.7 billion from the wider economy, placing 160,000 jobs at risk. The chief executive explained that because businesses will lose out on so much revenue in the last two weeks of December, they would not be able to afford to invest in staff in the first quarter of next year.
More reaction soon.