View from City Hall: Scale of crisis on a par with post-war

PUBLISHED: 08:30 22 August 2020

Unmesh Desai wanrts more suport for vulnerable businesses hit by Covid.

Unmesh Desai wanrts more suport for vulnerable businesses hit by Covid.


The real potential for a second wave of Covid-19 infections concerns me greatly, given that recent figures once again show a rise of infections in Newham.

I asked the council’s director of public health to explain the disparities between Newham and neighbouring boroughs with similar demographics and levels of deprivation, but the answers I have so far seem incomplete.

Factors such as the number of people in jobs with a higher exposure to infection and poor air quality are also present in Tower Hamlets.

There is clearly more work to be done to understand the local situation and I have twice raised this at the London Assembly Health Committee.

We must know what must be done differently in a second wave and ensure we do it. We need much more robust enforcement of the type we have seen in neighbouring Barking and Dagenham, which in the space of a week, closed down two social venues for breaches of Covid-19 related regulations.

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Better and more targeted messaging with our diverse communities is also vital.

A second wave that requires even a local lockdown will be devastating for Newham’s economy. The council will desperately need government support should this occur, but we must also have a clear vision of what it will take to support residents.

Political leadership is about making, not waiting for, things to happen. It’s not enough to say how bad things are, we must also know how we’re going to improve them.

I recently attended a protest organised by the PCS union over the potential for 300 redundancies among largely young workers at the Tate Galleries, and I spoke at a GMB event in Downing Street about the crisis in the aviation industry.

The government needs to step in and do more to protect these and other at-risk industries. This is why I’ve been campaigning for the furlough scheme to be extended for some sectors.

Taking all of this in the round, it is clear that the scale of the crisis we face is on a par with post-war challenges.

We are going to need bold leadership at all levels – international, national and local – if we are to rise to it.

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