Boris Johnson is considering ‘sealing off London’ if there is a local spike in coronavirus cases, it has been claimed.
The plan could see the M25 being used as a border point in the event of a second wave or if a local lockdown is needed, reports say.
Mr Johnson is said to have discussed new plans on Wednesday during a meeting looking at possible future scenarios as the pandemic progresses. Downing Street has branded the claims from the Sunday Times as ‘speculative’.
However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he was unaware of the Government war game and accused the Prime Minister of ‘totally unacceptable’ behaviour.
It has also been suggested that Mr Johnson considered placing London under stricter restrictions when the county originally went into lockdown.
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Mr Khan said: ‘Our surprise is that such far reaching contingency plans have been discussed and tested without the involvement or awareness of London’s government. This is clearly totally unacceptable.’
He wrote to Mr Johnson saying the capital’s authorities ‘cannot do what is right for Londoners if we are excluded from key planning sessions in this way.’
The Prime Minister agreed last week that if infections rose significantly, ‘overnight stays in London would be banned, Londoners could be subject to stay-at-home orders, and close-contact services such as hairdressers would close’, according to the Sunday Times.
The move could be implemented more quickly than the local lockdown on Leicester, amid fears of a quick fire spread of the virus.
But Downing Street sources have distanced themselves from the detail in the reports, calling them ‘speculative’.
Mr Khan’s letter, jointly signed by Peter John, Chair of London Councils, began: ‘It is with great surprise that we read in the Sunday papers that Government held a critical exercise last week in which a major resurgence in Covid-19 infections in London was a central scenario. According to media reports, the plans included using the M25 as a quarantine ring – effectively sealing off the city.’
It alleged that the apparent move to not consult with London’s local authorities appeared to ignore ‘transitional arrangements’ to ensure all levels of Government and ‘key partners’ were involved in decision making on the Covid-19 crisis.
The number of coronavirus cases in London has been rising less quickly than other parts of the country, but there are fears that public transport in the capital could spread the virus more quickly and make tracing infected people more difficult.
There are also said to be concerns that arrivals to the capital’s airports could bring cases in – meaning the green list of countries exempt from quarantine could be scrapped if there is another spike, forcing all arrivals to self isolate for 14 days.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak agreed the measure ‘might be necessary’ in the event of a London outbreak.
Mr Khan’s letter went on: ’It is now 12 weeks since I, as Mayor, was last invited to COBR.
‘Time and again throughout this crisis, the Government has been slow to take decisions or has taken the wrong decisions – the confusion and delay over going into lockdown, the way Transport for London has been penalised despite doing everything ministers asked, a test and trace system that is not up to the standard required to contain outbreaks and the failure to deliver on promises that the Government will fully compensate local and regional government for the cost of tackling this virus.
‘This must stop. Riding roughshod over democratically elected representatives who understand their communities better than central government will lead to worse outcomes for Londoners, and the country as a whole.’
Metro.co.uk has contacted Downing Street for comment.
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