London coronavirus lockdown by weekend as army enters ‘city of super spreaders’

Embattled Brits will be forced into lockdown in the nation's capital by this weekend as officials label London a "city of superspreaders" and emergency legislation to tackle the coronavirus outbreak is published in Parliament.

In an unprecedented move in peacetime, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the closure of schools, non-essential public could be banned and 20,000 soldiers are readied to move into the capital.

Up to 40 underground stations will be closed and the Government is not ruling out forcing London residents to require paperwork to travel.

The draconian measures come as the Queen fled London for Windsor where she will self-isolate to avoid catching the killer bug, which has led to the deaths of 35 Londoners – higher than anywhere in the country.

A third of Britain's confirmed coronavirus cases are in the city – though the number is more likely to be in the tens of thousands.

After closing schools and cancelling exams,  Boris Johnson  has refused to rule out further draconian measures.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will table the Emergency Coronavirus Bill setting out measures aimed at slowing the spread and supporting the NHS and workers in the Commons today. It could see restaurants, bars, pubs, cinemas and more closed across the city turning it into a ghost town.

Official figures from Public Health England show 953 cases recorded in London compared to a total across the UK of 2,626.

The legislation will be presented as the Army prepares to deploy 20,000 troops to enforce new laws and the crisis has prompted the Queen to leave London for Windsor.

The Cabinet Office has written to departments asking for recommendations about restrictions, how they could be implemented and how to ensure “compliance”.

Boris Johnson had admitted last night "further and faster measures" may be needed after coming under fire for initially pushing for "business as usual" when the first cases hit the UK.

Whitehall sources yesterday said lockdown-style measures in London – which the Prime Minister admitted is "a few weeks ahead" of the rest of the country – are "imminent".

It is currently unclear whether Londoners will be able to continue travelling via cars and bikes, however.

Emergency laws to be introduced to Parliament tomorrow will include powers to "close premises" and "restrict or prohibit events and gatherings" anywhere in the UK, if the government chooses to.

The Coronavirus Bill will also allow the government to limit activity in "any place, vehicle, train, vessel or aircraft".

It is estimated one in seven people in London work in the tourism, hospitality and leisure sector, and with the expected closures, as well as grounding of aeroplanes, such steps could leave thousands without jobs.

The Telegraph  reports the Government is not ruling out forcing London residents to require paperwork to travel.

So far, 104 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the UK and tens of thousands of people are thought to be infected.

Schools across the UK were preparing to close to all pupils except those of key workers in a bid to halt the disease's spread.

English schools will shut their gates on Friday until further notice, as will nurseries, colleges and childminders.

GCSEs and A-levels in both England and Wales will be cancelled – although the Prime Minister said there are plans for students to receive qualifications.

In Scotland and Wales, all schools will close for an early Easter break by Friday. A decision on whether exams will sit in Scotland has not yet been taken.

Schools in Northern Ireland will shut and it is expected pupils will not sit summer exams.

Mr Johnson said measures taken so far were helping to slow the spread of the disease, but he did not rule out tougher measures being enforced down the line.

The PM also did not rule out stricter controls being imposed on London ahead of the rest of the nation, with fears of a lockdown being imposed like in other nations.

Transport for London (TfL) announced up to 40 Tube stations would be closed on Thursday and a reduced service would run on the rails from Friday to enable the city's critical workers to make essential journeys – with no Waterloo & City line from Friday.

Until further notice, on Friday and Saturday nights there will be no all-night 'Night Tube' service or the all-night 'Night Overground' service that currently runs on the East London line – though late Tube and Overground services will continue for essential journeys.

London buses, meanwhile, will operate fewer services, but TfL's extensive night bus network will continue to provide critical workers with a reliable night option on Friday and Saturday nights and throughout the week.

Everyone is urged not to use public transport for anything other than essential journeys.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan warned Londoners they should not be travelling unless they "really, really have to", but insisted the network must remain open to aid frontline health workers.

He said: "Londoners should be avoiding social interaction unless absolutely necessary, and that means they should be avoiding using the transport network unless absolutely necessary.

"London will get through these extraordinarily challenging times, and ensuring the capital's critical workers can move around the city will be crucial.

"Frontline staff across our health and care service – as well as those ensuring Londoners stay safe and can access food and other essentials – should be commended for their hard work.

"We owe it to them to do whatever we can to help them do their jobs effectively.

"I'm urging Londoners to only use public transport for essential journeys. Everyone should follow this and the other advice to help keep themselves and each other safe."

Meanwhile, the number of troops in a heightened state of readiness will be doubled to 20,000 while Reserves were to be placed on standby to support public services in a new "Covid support force".

The Ministry of Defence was also planning to put 150 military personnel into training to drive oxygen tankers around the country to support the NHS.

Mr Hancock's emergency legislation will also include plans to hand police powers to arrest and isolate people to protect public health but will be time-limited for two years.

Labour is not expected to force a vote on the legislation, allowing it to pass through Parliament swiftly with some MPs in self-isolation and concerns about others gathering in the House.

But leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote a list of conditions to the PM which he said would need to be considered to gain public support.

Mr Corbyn said the legislation must be renewed by a fresh vote in Parliament every six months in order to prevent too much power being handed to the Government.

He also said rent suspension must be introduced, called for the ban on evictions to last six months and for jobs and incomes to receive greater protection.

Some hospitals have begun stopping all non-essential visits to patients, while the FTSE 100 continued its downward slump as the financial impact of the crisis failed to cease.

The cultural impact also continued, with filming on EastEnders and BBC Studios dramas including Casualty, Doctors, Holby City, Pobol y Cwm and River City was postponed.

However, there was a glimmer of hope in a day of bleak developments when the PM hailed a "game-changer" test was "coming down the track."

It would test for antibodies to the virus and be able to tell if someone has been infected and recovered, allowing them to return to work.

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