It is thanks to the restraint and sacrifice of Londoners that the pandemic is easing its grip on the capital. By staying in, they have undoubtedly helped save many of their neighbours. But months of lockdown has left restaurants, hotels and theatres starved of normal spending, and many are struggling to survive. Now, to save their city, Londoners must go out.
It is welcome then that today the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said “we need to start driving London’s powerhouse economy forward. As we’ve seen this week we’ve taken a huge hit, so it’s crucial each of us now starts to do our bit.”
That prospect will be made more appealing to many by the latest round of lockdown easing, which kicks-in in England on Saturday. It will allow more close contact treatments by beauticians and barbers, socially distanced live indoor performances and some sports events with spectators.
Londoners will be able to go bowling and skating, and visit casinos. Those with children can visit soft play areas. There is no need to spend the weekend on the sofa with Netflix. Where it is safe, those at lower risk from the virus need to start getting back to normal.
The urgency cannot be overstated.
London’s economy works to power the rest of the UK. Let it wither, and the whole country suffers.
As the Evening Standard has reported throughout the crisis, London’s offices have been emptied, jobs have vanished, and the West End has been left deserted. The arts, so vital to our vibrant cities, have been decimated. Small businesses are failing and large ones have kept staff working from home, to the detriment of central shops and cafés.
Now is the time for innovative leadership from the Government and the Mayor as the city struggles. Last week dozens of leading restaurateurs wrote to Sadiq Khan warning of huge job losses unless “immediate action” was taken.
London needs help but they cannot do it alone. It will not be easy but the capital has a long history of bouncing back. Nothing can destroy the city’s creative drive, and it will always attract great minds and extraordinary skills. Some day the centre will be bustling again.
We should make that happen sooner rather than later.
Many feared an end to lockdown would cause a spike in violent crime in London.
Research by the Evening Standard reveals the sad fact that they were right. Violent street crime more than doubled in July, the month restrictions were lifted. A Met officer whose own brother was shot dead has called for an end to the bloodshed.
London has long lived in the shadow of violent crime and more action is needed. Evidence tells us that a combined approach works best: crime must be treated as a public health crisis as well as a criminal one.
Disaffection and a lack of opportunity for young people only compounds the problem. Rather late in the day, that approach is now being tried. But change is now more urgent than ever.