Coronavirus: Sadiq Khan says 'Londoners will die' if they do not practise social distancing

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Sadiq Khan urged Londoners to follow government advice - and did not rule out the use of enforcement powers in the capital (BBC)

Sadiq Khan has urged Londoners to refrain from mixing and to take the government’s social distancing guidelines seriously – or “people will die” as COVID-19 spreads rapidly in the capital.

Boris Johnson said the spread of coronavirus in London was “weeks ahead” of the rest of the country, urging people to stay at home and keep distance from friends and family.

On Friday the prime minister ordered the closure of all restaurants, pubs, bars and other social venues.

Next week, an emergency bill going through Parliament will give police special powers to enforce the law.

The mayor told Andrew Marr that if people mixed with each other it would lead 'to more people dying'. (BBC)

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, the mayor of London admitted that “life has changed”, urging Londoners to take the spread of the virus more seriously.

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Now fully aware of the accelerated situation in London, Khan said: “I am really quite clear: people should not be leaving their homes unless they have to.

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“Sometimes there is a good reason to leave your home, such as to walk your dog or get some exercise, but what we really shouldn’t be doing is having social interaction.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures, during a coronavirus news conference at 10 Downing Street, in London, Thursday, March 19, 2020. For some people the new COVID-19 coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, but for some it can cause severe illness. (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP)
Boris Johnson said the spread of coronavirus in London was 'weeks ahead' of the rest of the country. (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP)

“Be under no doubt – by mixing it leads to more people dying.”

He continued: “I am not someone who says these things lightly but unless people don’t stay at home, if they don’t stop using pubic transport unless it’s essential, unless people will stop interacting with people, more people will die.

A graph detailing new coronavirus cases in the UK. (PA)
A graph detailing new coronavirus cases in the UK. (PA)

“That’s why it’s really important that people start to recognise the scale of the challenge ahead of us.

“Please, please please – stop mixing. Stay at home.”

Frith Street in Soho, London is virtually empty the day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered pubs and restaurants across the country to close as the Government announced unprecedented measures to cover the wages of workers who would otherwise lose their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Boris Johnson has ordered pubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and other social spaces across the country to close - leaving London looking like a ghost town. (PA)

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When asked if the police or army would intervene, the mayor said imminent enforcement legislation will be used if necessary.

He continued: “If people continue to act in a way that is leading to this disease spreading, then those sorts of things will be things that will have to be considered.”

The mayor also said that the provision of a limited skeleton public transport system should be avoided, emphasising the system remained open for “critical workers” only.

A woman passes the gated entrance to Covent Garden Underground train station in London, Thursday, March 19, 2020. Several underground train tube stations are to be closed and buses reduced due to the COVID-19 virus. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Several underground train tube stations are to be closed and buses reduced due to the COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

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Marr asked Khan if he should suspend the London transport network entirely, in case NHS workers contract COVID-19 themselves and spread it on buses and tubes.

Khan said: “I’m really keen to make sure transport is available to critical workers, to get to and from work and home.

“We are trying to make sure there are enough tubes and buses so that they are not overcrowded.

Una persona con una mascarilla en el rostro camina por el puente de Westminster casi vacío con el Parlamento al fondo, en Londres, el viernes 20 de marzo de 2020. (AP Foto/Matt Dunham)
Westminster Bridge, almost deserted. (AP Foto/Matt Dunham)

“Nobody else should be using transport, nobody else should be leaving their home.”

Khan also reiterated his message on Twitter, posting on Sunday morning: “IMPORTANT: My message to Londoners: Do not leave home unless you have a very good reason.

“Do not go to work or use public transport, unless you do a critical job. Ignoring these instructions will cause more people to die.”

Also on Sunday, housing minister Robert Jenrick warned that asking people to stay at home to suppress the number of COVID-19 cases was not "a game" – and refused to rule out tougher action.

Read more: Rough sleepers given beds in London hotels to protect them against coronavirus

Speaking on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday, he said: "We have now closed the pubs, the restaurants, the clubs, the indoor gyms and leisure activities, and we want people now to follow that advice and stay at home wherever possible.

"If people don't follow that advice, we'll clearly have to consider other options. But none of us want to go down that route."

Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick leaves Downing Street as the government is expected to publish an emergency coronavirus powers Bill.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick warned that asking people to stay at home was not 'a game'.

However, according to a YouGov survey published on Saturday, nearly three-quarters of people say they have changed their behaviour following government guidance.

The survey, commissioned by Imperial College London’s Patient Experience Research Centre, said that almost half of those surveyed believe they will eventually contract the virus.

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