No10 today refused to rule out effectively sealing off London if coronavirus cases spike as Sadiq Khan accused Boris Johnson of ‘riding roughshod’ over the city’s best interests.

The Mayor of London has written to the PM to voice ‘great surprise’ at suggestions a quarantine zone could be created within the M25, complaining that it has been 12 weeks since he was invited to a Cobra meeting and the lack of consultation is ‘unacceptable’.

Mr Johnson held a ‘war game’ session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week to run through possible options as fears mount over a second peak in the disease.

Measures considered included lockdown-like conditions for London, with the M25 acting as a barrier around the capital, according to the Times.

Downing Street said the government’s ‘Contain’ strategy set out that restrictions can be imposed on transport links ‘if there is an area that is particularly badly affected’. But the PM’s spokesman said that was not only a possibility for London – as any location could be subject to similar curbs.

In other developments today:

  • Health Secretary Matt Hancock has dismissed ‘inaccurate’ claims that all over-50s could be ordered to shield if the situation deteriorates; 
  • The government has launched its ‘eat out to help out’ scheme with 50 per cent discounts to encourage people to support restaurants; 
  • A top scientist has condemned the ‘shroud of secrecy’ around government decision-making on coronavirus; 
  • Civil servants are rebelling against Mr Johnson’s call for them to return to offices amid concerns about the risk of infection; 
  • New 90-minute saliva tests have been unveiled and hailed as a ‘game-changer’ by ministers. 
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured last month) has written to the PM to voice 'great surprise' at suggestions the capital could be effectively sealed off if there is a spike in coronavirus infections

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured last month) has written to the PM to voice 'great surprise' at suggestions the capital could be effectively sealed off if there is a spike in coronavirus infections

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (pictured last month) has written to the PM to voice ‘great surprise’ at suggestions the capital could be effectively sealed off if there is a spike in coronavirus infections

Mr Khan said it was 'totally unacceptable' that contingency plans were being discussed without his knowledge

Mr Khan said it was 'totally unacceptable' that contingency plans were being discussed without his knowledge

Mr Khan said it was ‘totally unacceptable’ that contingency plans were being discussed without his knowledge

A letter sent to Mr Johnson from Mr Khan and chair of London Councils, Peter John, said: ‘It is with great surprise that we read in the Sunday papers that Government held a critical exercise last week in which a major resurgence in Covid-19 infections in London was a central scenario.

‘According to media reports, the plans included using the M25 as a quarantine ring – effectively sealing off the city.

‘Our surprise is that such far-reaching contingency plans have been discussed and tested without the involvement or awareness of London’s government.

‘This is clearly totally unacceptable and an affront to London and Londoners.’

The letter also said the Government has been slow to take decisions or has taken the wrong decisions ‘time and again throughout this crisis’, adding: ‘This must stop.

‘Riding roughshod over democratically elected representatives who understand their communities better than central Government will lead to worse outcomes for Londoners, and the country as a whole.’

In a tweet, Mr Khan said: ‘Excluding local leaders in this way won’t help us control the virus and must stop now.’

Downing Street said the ability to impose travel restrictions had been set out in its strategy for preventing the spread of coronavirus but denied it was a plan specifically drawn up for the capital. 

Top scientist slams ‘shroud of secrecy’ over Covid decisions 

A top scientist has slammed the ‘shroud of secrecy’ around the government’s coronavirus decisions – as civil servants rebel over Boris Johnson‘s call for people to return to offices.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief of the Francis Crick Institute, raised concerns that crucial choices seemed to be made by a ‘black box’ in Whitehall with the results sometimes ‘shambolic’. 

He insisted more transparency and scrutiny was needed to get the ‘best results’.

The intervention came as the government faces a fresh backlash about mixed messaging. Treasury subsidies for eating out at restaurants are launched today, and advice that everyone should work from home is being downgraded.

However, there are also mounting rumours about tightening coronavirus rules in some areas, with fears of a looming second wave.

Civil servants have complained they are being used as guinea pigs for the return to offices, with claims of more cases at the heart of government over the past fortnight.

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The ‘Contain’ strategy sets out ‘the possibility of putting in place restrictions on travel if there is an area that is particularly badly affected’. 

‘One of the steps within that potentially includes closing down local transport networks,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said. 

‘It’s there, it’s contained in the document, it’s not a new thing – we have informed the public and politicians of that being a potential action that we could take. 

‘But, to be clear, it’s not something that is specific to London or anywhere else.’ 

Meanwhile, a top scientist has slammed the ‘shroud of secrecy’ around the government’s coronavirus decisions.

Sir Paul Nurse, chief of the Francis Crick Institute, raised concerns that crucial choices seemed to be made by a ‘black box’ in Whitehall with the results sometimes ‘shambolic’. 

He insisted more transparency and scrutiny was needed to get the ‘best results’.

The intervention came as the government faces a fresh backlash about mixed messaging. Treasury subsidies for eating out at restaurants are launched today, and advice that everyone should work from home is being downgraded.

However, there are also mounting rumours about tightening coronavirus rules in some areas, with fears of a looming second wave.

Civil servants have complained they are being used as guinea pigs for the return to offices, with claims of more cases at the heart of government over the past fortnight.

A leading expert today hit out at the ‘rash’ move to put 4.5million people in the North West under tough new lockdown measures because of a spike in coronavirus cases.

Ministers last week announced people from different homes in Greater Manchester, parts of Lancashire and West Yorkshire would be banned from meeting each other inside their homes or in gardens following a spike in cases.

But Professor Carl Heneghan, director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, claimed Covid-19 cases aren’t actually rising — despite government figures showing an upwards trend. 

He said the rising infection rates are down to more people being tested and warned of inaccuracies in the data, telling the Daily Telegraph: ‘The northern lockdown was a rash decision.

‘Where’s the rise? By date of test through July there’s no change if you factor in all the increased testing that’s going on.’

He warned there was a rise in detected cases because of more targeted testing in areas such as Oldham, the second-worst hit borough in the country with 55.2 cases for every 100,000 people in the past week.

Boris Johnson (pictured today) held a 'war game' session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to run through possible options if there is a second coronavirus peak

Boris Johnson (pictured today) held a 'war game' session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to run through possible options if there is a second coronavirus peak

Boris Johnson (pictured today) held a ‘war game’ session with Chancellor Rishi Sunak to run through possible options if there is a second coronavirus peak

Tube journeys are 75% down on the day Boris urges Britons to return to work: Trains are far from full as workers ignore pleas to get back to their desks 

London Underground journeys are still down by 75 per cent on last year as workers ignored the government’s drive to get back to work today.

Just 240,000 trips were made on the Tube during this morning’s rush hour to 10am, which marks a six per cent increase on last week.

Passengers, some still not wearing face coverings, had plenty of space for social distancing as a few took the Jubilee Line into the city centre.

Boris Johnson had heralded today – the first Monday in August – as the day ‘work from home’ guidance ends and Britain should return to the office.

But almost five in six office employees will continue to stay at home despite the desperate drive to reignite the economy.

Commuters sat on the Tube on their phones and read the newspaper this morning, with plenty of spare seats and only a few travellers forced to stand.

It is a world away from the usual jostle for a position at rush hour, when thousands of weary Londoners cram into all available spaces in the carriages.

On a typical morning before the coronavirus struck, about 1,124,825 would take the London Underground between 4am and 10am.

But during the pandemic this plummeted by up to 90 per cent, with just 109,306 taking the network on the morning of May 29. MailOnline has contacted Transport for London for today’s figures. 

Liverpool Street Station in central London looks bare today as few passengers take to public transport to get back to the office

Liverpool Street Station in central London looks bare today as few passengers take to public transport to get back to the office

Liverpool Street Station in central London looks bare today as few passengers take to public transport to get back to the office

A woman scratches her head as she walks down a gangway from a train as she gets into Liverpool Street Station in central London

A woman scratches her head as she walks down a gangway from a train as she gets into Liverpool Street Station in central London

A woman scratches her head as she walks down a gangway from a train as she gets into Liverpool Street Station in central London

The Tube today
The Tube last week
Slide me

Left: Today. Right: Last week. The London Underground remained quiet at rush hour this morning despite the PM saying ‘work from home’ is over

Passengers, some still not wearing face coverings (pictured), had plenty of space for social distancing as a few took the Jubilee Line into the city centre

A few passengers leave the train at Liverpool Street Station this morning as they head to work in the city centre

A few passengers leave the train at Liverpool Street Station this morning as they head to work in the city centre

A few passengers leave the train at Liverpool Street Station this morning as they head to work in the city centre 

Desolate trains are parked at Liverpool Street Station in London which was devoid of commuters at rush hour today

Desolate trains are parked at Liverpool Street Station in London which was devoid of commuters at rush hour today

Desolate trains are parked at Liverpool Street Station in London which was devoid of commuters at rush hour today

Boris Johnson had heralded today ¿ the first Monday in August ¿ as the day 'work from home' guidance ends and Britain should return to the office. But rush hour was quiet

Boris Johnson had heralded today ¿ the first Monday in August ¿ as the day 'work from home' guidance ends and Britain should return to the office. But rush hour was quiet

Boris Johnson had heralded today – the first Monday in August – as the day ‘work from home’ guidance ends and Britain should return to the office. But rush hour was quiet

London traffic data from TomTom shows congestion at rush hour this morning stood at just 22 per cent, down from 26 per cent last week and 52 per cent last year.

But Apple mobility trends, which is only available up to Saturday, suggests there are more people driving in London – up 10 per cent – while walking and transit are down 11 per cent and 29 per cent respectively.

A Mail audit of 30 of Britain’s biggest firms, representing 320,000 employees, found just 17 per cent of office-based staff would travel to work this week.

The PM said Britons could go back to the workplace at the ‘discretion’ of their employers and would no longer be advised to stay away from public transport.

But many businesses are not planning for most workers to return to offices until at least towards the end of the year, while the likes of Facebook and bank RBS said staff will not go back until 2021.

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