The re-opening of restaurants, pubs, cafés, cinemas, galleries, hotels, hair salons and barber shops will come as a great relief to millions of Londoners.
It will also be a hugely significant moment for many of our city’s fantastic cultural venues and small businesses. For them, the chance to open their doors and welcome customers back during these difficult times is absolutely crucial for their survival.
That’s why, as the Mayor of London, I’m encouraging fellow Londoners to go out and make the most of what our incredible city has to offer, while also urging everyone to act responsibly, respectfully and in accordance with the rules.
The steps being taken this weekend are vital to safeguarding jobs and kick-starting our economic recovery. And right now, nothing could be more important than the twin goals of getting our economy up and running again while protecting public health.
I’m extremely disappointed though that the Government has chosen not to use all of the tools at its disposal to protect the public.
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The evidence in support of wearing face coverings in enclosed spaces is clear – they help to prevent the spread of this terrible virus. I believe the Government should therefore make it mandatory for people to wear them in enclosed spaces where it’s difficult to keep a safe distance from others – for example, in shops.
In Scotland, officials have already announced that the use of face coverings in shops will be mandatory from 10 July. Members of the public who refuse to do so will face a fine. This is also the case across Europe and across the United States. Government ministers must now follow their example and do the same, because there can be no excuse for not pulling out all the stops to protect staff and shoppers across the entire country.
Not only have face coverings been shown to reduce virus transmission, but their widespread use sends an important signal about how seriously, as a society, we are treating the threat posed by the coronavirus. They are a physical reminder that the virus is still out there. They also help prevent people from touching their nose and mouth – which we know is how the virus can enter the body.
With a long and growing list of countries making face coverings in indoor public spaces compulsory, we have become an international outlier. As people are already starting to travel more across and between countries, the Government needs to change tack on this soon.
I’m urging everyone in London to wear a face covering if they can’t keep a safe distance from others, including in shops
It’s now clear that we were too slow to go into lockdown in the UK and my fear is that the Government will come to regret not moving much faster on face coverings too.
As the Mayor of London, I’m not going to wait for the Government to get its act together. That’s why I’m urging everyone in our city to wear a face covering if they can’t keep a safe distance from others, including in shops.
I’m also urging Londoners to continue washing their hands regularly and carry hand sanitiser, to check in with venues in advance about any special arrangements they may have, and to stay away from large gatherings of people.
We’re also still encouraging Londoners to walk and cycle where possible, and if they do need to use public transport, to travel outside the busiest times and follow the law and wear a face covering.
So far, thanks to the monumental efforts and sacrifices of Londoners, we have succeeded in slowing the spread of this virus in our city. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves – the situation is precarious and the threat from Covid-19 remains very real. We can’t afford to be complacent or to give this virus an inch.
We must continue to keep our guard up and do everything we can to keep it under control and out of our communities and neighbourhoods. We simply cannot risk a resurgence or a catastrophic second wave of this deadly disease.
So my message to Londoners this week is to go out and support our city’s amazing local businesses and cultural attractions. But, when doing so, take every possible precaution.
Stick to the rules and act responsibly and safely, because lives are still at stake. And if you can wear a face covering, please do so.
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