London has been hit the worst by the coronavirus outbreak – with 953 of the UK’s 2,626 confirmed cases and at least 35 of its 104 deaths.
The spread of COVID-19 has all but emptied streets that are normally packed, monuments appear eerily deserted and tourist attractions, museums and theatres continue to close.
People who can’t work from home are suddenly able to find seats on trains that are normally full, with Tube journeys last week 19% down on 2019.
The change follows measures introduced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson this week to try to prevent the spread of the virus.
On Monday, he said London was ahead of other parts of the country and advised people to work from home, avoid pubs and restaurants and keep a safe distance from each other.
He said: It is now clear that the peak of the epidemic is coming faster in some parts of the country than in others. It looks as though London is now a few weeks ahead.
So to relieve the pressure on the London health system and to slow the spread in London, it is important that Londoners now pay special attention to what we are saying about avoiding non-essential contact and to take particularly seriously the advice about working from home and avoiding confined spaces such as pubs and restaurants.
But there are concerns that some in the capital and elsewhere are not taking his advice seriously enough – and a mandatory closure order for places such as pubs is still a possibility.
The worst-affected London boroughs are Southwark with 70 cases, Westminster with 68 cases, and Lambeth with 61 confirmed cases.
Dr Simon Clarke, a virology expert and associate professor at the University of Reading, said London’s high numbers were not necessarily down to its large population of almost nine million.
He told Sky News: It’s the density of the population, not just the number of people in London – you have to look at the proximity to one another on buses and Tubes.
There are more social reasons too – there are more theatres and pubs and there are more opportunities for mixing.
Dr Clarke used the example of the Italian capital Rome, which has a population of almost three million, and how it has fewer cases than the more densely populated Milan, which has a population of under 1.4 million.
Rome has 590 confirmed cases and Milan has 2,644.
Milan is like the London of Italy, it’s densely populated, said Dr Clarke.
He said there was evidence emerging of coronavirus hanging in the air instead of falling to the ground in some places.
It’s infectious because it’s carried in people’s coughs and sneezes, and there’s some evidence emerging that it might hang in the air in poorly ventilated areas, he said.
However, Dr Clarke urged people to live your life but be mindful of the risks.
I will always tell people to live their lives and not live in fear, he added.
(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus in London: Why is the outbreak worse in the capital?