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Town Hall leader: new coronavirus measures ‘too little, too late’

Islington Council leader Councillor Richard Watts said a "circuit-breaker" lockdown would be more effective in tackling virus spread

16 October, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Council leader Richard Watts

Stricter coronavirus measures will come into effect at midnight tomorrow (Friday) but the government has been told the new rules are “too little, too late”.

Amid a rising number of Covid-19 cases, London is being placed on so-called “Tier 2” control – marking it as a high alert area for the spread of the virus. Households will be told they cannot mix indoors, including pubs and restaurants.

But Islington Council leader Councillor Richard Watts said: “This is probably too little too late. The virus is already out of control. Because of the great work of our community, the cases are relatively low in Islington compared with other boroughs, but it is a concerning picture looking across London.”

He said it would be more effective to go into a “circuit-breaker”, a short national lockdown, adding: “While I appreciate that it would be hard for people, that did bring the virus down effectively. We would expect people to go back to the furlough scheme.

“It is crazy to talk about the truce of the virus or helping the economy. There should be a short, sharp lockdown before things get really out of control instead of the horrific drip feed of measures we are seeing.”

A walk-in test centre in the Sobell Centre in Holloway opened this month. Cllr Watts said: “The council have been campaigning hard to get adequate testing. Numbers have risen significantly in the last few weeks. If we had been in this position a month ago or two months ago then we would be in a much better position to fight the virus.

“It depends on whether the government continues to dilly dally around. They seem reluctant to take measures to get this under control.

“We need to see more testing, local devolution of the test and trace, which has been a complete disaster, and an approach from the government to do what is necessary and move away from the current approach of throwing astronomical amounts of money to private companies to do a terrible job.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Wednesday: “I know that these measures are not easy but I also know that they are vital.

“Responding to this unprecedented pandemic requires difficult choices, some of the most difficult choices any government has to make in peacetime.”

He added:  “We make these decisions with a heavy heart with the sole aim of steering our nation through troubled waters. Things will get worse before they get better. But I know there are brighter skies and calmer seas ahead.”

It emerged yesterday (Thursday) that Islington Council is searching for a new director of public health amid the second spike of Covid cases.

Dr Julie Billett, the current director, has been recruited by Public Health England as its news operations director for London and is due to start her new job as early as Monday.

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