Mayor Sadiq Khan is pleading with people to stay off the London Underground, or Tube, to keep it safe for key workers — but as recently as March 3rd he said travel on the subway system presented “no risk”.
In an televised interview on Good Morning Britain, Mayor Khan was asked by host Sussana Reid: “Can you see a situation in which a sort of metaphorical ring of steel is put around London in order not to spread the virus, in the same way that we’ve seen has happened in Wuhan in China?”
Khan insisted he could not foresee such a situation — which has now unfolded in Finland, for example, where Helsinki and the capital region are sealed off from the rest of the country — and claimed that plans were in place were to “contain the virus, to delay it’s spreading”.
Reid pressed her point, however, asking him: “at what point will you say to people, in this containment, or even in the next delay stage, look, being in public transport is obviously a risk factor, people are coughing and sneezing on a crowded Tube carriage, that is going to put you at risk — you know, people might be saying [to Khan] now, as mayor of the city, should we still be getting on public transport and using the tubes?”
“Well, it’s very important that we don’t spread panic or alarm based on misinformation,” the Labour politician replied.
“What we need to do as politicians is to rely upon the best advice we have from the public health experts and from the Chief Medical Officer — there is no risk in using the Tube or buses or other forms of public transport, or going to a concert,” he insisted.
Sadiq Khan: ‘Covid-19 Is Not a Chinese Virus’, Trump ‘Disgraceful’ https://t.co/Fpj1NXRsO3
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) March 20, 2020
“Mr Mayor, no disrespect, but how on earth can you say that in a city of 12 million people there is ‘no risk’ given that we now know it’s here and is beginning to spread here and we know that in other countries the spread has been ferocious — places like Italy, Iran, and others,” interrupted Piers Morgan, Reid’s co-host.
“How can you say as Mayor of London there is ‘no risk’ to people using public transport?”
“Because I rely on the advice I receive from Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer,” Khan shot back, referring for a second time to top technocrat Professor Chris Witty — who is now in self-isolation with coronavirus symptoms himself.
“[T]he advice is you’re not going to catch if you’re washing your hands regularly and if you’re using public transport,” Khan continued.
“On the Tube on a daily basis there are five million journeys, on our buses six million journeys, many of the concert venues in London have crowds of between 5,000 and 20,000,” he added — although without explaining why the statistics he provided would suggest anything but very strong potential for the London transport network to become a critical vector for the virus, despite his claims to the contrary.
Keeping Londoners and visitors to our city safe is my top priority as Mayor. Whilst there are no specific concerns about using public transport, to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading @TfL have stepped up an enhanced cleaning regime across the transport network. #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/GfQyDYVZdY
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) March 10, 2020
As recently as March 10th, May0r Khan was continuing to publish messages on social media claiming “there are no specific concerns about using public transport”, simply boasting that Transport for London (TfL) had introduced an “enhanced cleaning regime” and sharing pictures of himself posing with staff, clearly not practising social distancing.
Now, London has emerged as the British epicentre for coronavirus, with hospitals saying the fear being overwhelmed and the Tube network much reduced due to the fact that, as Khan himself reported in The Telegraph on March 28th, “nearly a third of our TfL staff are now off sick or self-isolating themselves.”
Khan used that Telegraph article to plead with “more people to stay at home to ensure our critical workers can travel safely” on the Tube, with the reduction in service meaning that the remaining trains are often still crowded.
It is not right to direct selective outrage at workers for crowded tubes & trains when their frequency has been cut & many operators have reduced the number of carriages on each train. It is now clear that running fewer, shorter trains is wrong. Key workers still need to travel.
— David Kurten (@davidkurten) March 24, 2020