Croydon’s newly installed ceremonial Mayor admits she has been affected by covid-19, yet did not wear a mask or practice social distancing on her first two engagements, while Public Health England reports an increase in virus infection rates in some parts of south London
It hasn’t taken very long: in less than a week since Boris Johnson’s government eased the lockdown to allow pubs, restaurants and shops to open, the coronavirus infection rate in parts of south London is on the rise again.
In the middle of the worst pandemic the world has encountered in 100 years, the lack of wise and clear leadership at government – and council – level is, at least, causing some confusion about how the public should behave, and at worst is condoning the sort of conduct which many believe is making a “second wave” of deaths from covid-19 inevitable.
One measure which experts say could reduce the risk of spreading infection is the wearing of masks in public places. “The evidence on face coverings is clear: wearing them will help us avoid a second wave and ultimately save lives,” Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said today.
Yet after more dither and delay, Blundering Boris is only just getting round to considering the move, while his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, went off for a photo op this week to promote his Mini-Budget and served customers in a restaurant without wearing a protective mask.
Others to set a poor example in public this week were Croydon councillors Maddie Henson and Manju Shahul-Hameed. Henson was installed as the Mayor of Croydon on Monday, and she failed to wear a mask or practice social distancing on her first two public engagements in that ceremonial role.
Yet on Monday, Henson had told a virtual council meeting that she had already had coronavirus.
Latest World Health Organization figures show the United Kingdom has had 287,625 confirmed cases of covid-19 so far. The number of people who have died from the virus is 44,602, the most of any European country.
Many health experts suggest that that figure could be revised upwards by as much as 50per cent, because of deaths in care homes and outside hospitals, where coronavirus has not been recorded as the cause.
According to statistics provided by Public Health England yesterday, based on tests in hospitals and in the community, for the week up to and including July 7 the number of confirmed cases of covid-19 (expressed as a number per 100,000 population) in Croydon was down from 2.9 to 1.8. Three months ago, Croydon had been one of the infection hot-spots in London, and Britain.
For the same period, PHE reports that Sutton’s infection rate dropped from 1.5 to 1.0.
But nearby, the infection rate is on the rise again for the first time since early May.
- In Kingston, the infection rate was up 2.3 to 3.4.
- In Richmond, it has gone up 1.5 to 2.0.
- In Wandsworth, up 2.1 to 3.4.
- In Lambeth, up 1.5 to 2.1.
- And in Epsom and Ewell in Surrey, the infection rate went from 1.3 to 5.0.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO’s director general, warned yesterday that the virus was still out of control “in most of the world” and that the global situation of the pandemic is “getting worse”.
Not that Prime Minister Boris Johnson has appeared to be overly bothered by the advice and guidance of health experts at any time over the past seven months. Yet even he appears to be coming round now to imposing measures, such as face masks, in an effort to do what is necessary to prevent infection rates increasing again.
“As we get the virus down, in the way that we have, and we stamp out local outbreaks in the way that we are, I do think we need to be stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined places,” Johnson said last night.
“We’re looking at ways of making sure that people really do have face coverings, in shops, for example.”
In Scotland, where public health measures have tended to be stricter and more effective, and regarded as closer to “best practice” in the battle against the deadly disease, face coverings became compulsory in shops yesterday. There is no such rule elsewhere in the UK.
In England, masks are mandatory on public transport and official guidance says people should also wear them in shops and other enclosed spaces.
Professor Anthony Costello, a former director at the World Health Organization, this week briefed the Independent Sage group of scientists saying, “Our message is: wear masks indoors, wear masks in public places, and I think ministers should be setting a good example.”
Croydon’s councillors, though, have been out and about setting very poor examples.
Using the official Mayor of Croydon Twitter feed on Thursday, Henson said, “Privilege to do my first engagement since taking over as Mayor – opening a Lidl store. Bringing 40+ new local jobs to the area.”
Henson’s tweet was accompanied by a couple of photographs of her inside the shop, with her husband Mark Henson and shop staff, but without any social distancing, and without any masks.
Later the same day, Shahul-Hameed tweeted from a second mayoral engagement, the opening of a Spice Village restaurant, with herself, the Hensons and the restaurant owners and staff all closely packed around a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and not a mask in sight.
Shahul-Hameed is the council’s cabinet member for business who presided over the shambolic distribution of covid emergency grants to the borough’s cash-starved firms.
Given more than £60million of government cash to dole out to cover business cashflow in the first weeks of lockdown, Croydon took almost three months to distribute the funds to some firms, adding to the difficulties many already faced.
As Shahul-Hameed and Henson set their bad examples at Lidl and Spice Village, the cabinet member tweeted, “As part of covid-19 economic recovery, Croydon Council will promote inward investment opportunities to attract new and retain existing businesses.”
And, it would seem, Shahul-Hameed, Henson and the council will also promote the further spread of coronavirus.
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