Freedom Day may be behind us, but life is still far from ‘normal’. GLAMOUR speaks to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, to answer all our questions about London reopening, the easing of restrictions and the Covid vaccine…
How do you feel about becoming the Mayor of London for your second term?
It’s really exciting and humbling to receive the huge mandate that we did on May 6th, a record result I’m really proud of. The key thing now is to deliver for Londoners. The priority has got to be to make sure there is a rapid recovery this summer. I am really keen to avoid at all costs a return to mass unemployment we saw in the 1980s, so we’re trying to protect the jobs we’ve got, help with the creation of new jobs and those that lose their jobs get back into work as soon as possible. It’s a huge responsibility and I’m obviously chuffed to receive the record that we did.
What are your thoughts on face masks now restrictions have eased, and the news that they’ll still be mandatory on London’s tubes and buses?
We were lobbying the government to keep the wearing of face masks compulsory on public transport for two main reasons. One is because we know that when you wear a face mask there is less chance of you passing the virus on, and also that 1 in 3 people are asymptomatic so don’t realise they even have the virus, so it leads to public transport being safer.
The second reason I was keen to keep face masks compulsory on public transport was because we know it increases public confidence, and the only way we’re going to get a rapid recovery and people back in the West End is if they have confidence in public transport. So, even now we’re past July 19th, it’s really important people follow the current rules which is that it is compulsory to wear a face mask on public transport, keep socially distanced and wash your hands regularly and thoroughly so we can do what we can to avoid the virus spreading.
Are you concerned that London’s reopening is going to cause a spike in cases?
I mostly agree with most of what the Prime Minister announced this month. I glad our city has reopened, and in particular, hospitality, culture and retail seeing the benefits of increased footfall. The key thing is as many Londoners as possible must receive both jabs as quickly as possible. We know that vaccines are a game changer; it reduces the chance of you catching the virus, it reduces the chance of you passing on the virus; and if you have got the virus, it reduces the chances of the consequences being more serious because we’re seeing the link between the virus and hospitalisation being weakened, we’re seeing the link between the virus and those on ventilators and ICU weakened and we’re seeing the link between the virus and people passing away weakened as well.
So, it is really important, even now that we’re past 19th July, that as many people as possible have one jab if not both. I’m sure that with us being sensible going forward, being vigilant and not complacent, we can reopen London in a safe way.
Do you think it’s unfair that Freedom Day happened before most millennials were double vaccinated?
It’s unfortunate. They key thing is that we match the supply of the vaccine with the demand for the vaccine from Londoners and those across the country. What the JCVI did was, for very good reasons, prioritised the vaccines on older people, for the obvious reasons that the older you are, the more serious the consequences if you catch the virus. To make sure there was enough supply they increased the time between the first jab and the second jab from three weeks to 12 weeks, because the more of us who have received the vaccine, the safer we are.
Millennials need to make sure they book the first jab, as the sooner they get their first jab the sooner they can have their second jab. I’m keen to make sure as many Londoners as possible have the jab.
Latest figures show that a third of Londoners have yet to have their first vaccine, making it the area with the lowest uptake in the country. What would you say to those people who are reluctant to get the vaccine?
There are various COVID deniers and masses, you can almost ignore them. There are many others who have legitimate questions and concerns around the vaccine. What I would say is go to somebody you trust in relation to asking their views about the vaccine; GP, pharmacist etc. The key thing I would say is this: the vaccine is the game changer. It protects you, it protects your family, it protects your community but also your ability to go on holiday overseas as many countries are saying they will only allow you to go to their country if you have evidence of both jabs.
There are also some events – such as sporting events – where they are asking for both jabs, so actually, having the jab will be our way of reopening London and returning to a semblance of normality. I am really keen to stress to all Londoners – particularly those who are a bit hesitant – is do your own homework from trusted sources, don’t rely on the sort of anti-vaxxers fake news pedallers on social media. Go to somebody you trust. Ask yourself: if you were unwell who would you go to? You’d go to your GP, your pharmacist or somebody else whose medical opinion you can trust.
As more people will return to the streets from 19th July, are we expected to see a rise in crime?
One of the things we saw before the pandemic began was a reduction in violent crime, a reduction in youth violence, a reduction in knife crime, a reduction in gun crime – and that’s continued to go down during the course of the pandemic. The police and myself are concerned through, as restrictions are eased, as the weather improves and as summer comes, we could see an increase in violent crime for a number of reasons. Some of the root causes of violent crime – deprivation, alienation, poverty, lack of opportunities – have been exacerbated during the pandemic and that’s one of the reasons why Londoners will see an increased police presence over the coming weeks. This will be particularly seen around busy town centres and those parts of London where we know there has in the past been violent crime.
But also this summer, we’ve laid on more events for young people around culture, sports and education that we’ve ever held before and we’re now advertising to parents, carers and young people some of the activities taking place this summer. We need to make sure there is enforcement (more police officers), but also prevention and diversion as well, giving young people constructive things to do so they’re not sucked into criminal activities, but kept safe instead.
Lastly, do you any plans yourself now that restrictions have fully eased?
I’ve got to be honest, I’ve not been clubbing for more than 25 years! I’m desperate for human interaction and human company, and if you know anywhere that plays great ’80s music – the cheesier; the better – get in touch and let me know!