London’s response to Covid-19


The Mayor of London and Greater London Authority (GLA) are committed to working with international partners to identify and share the most effective actions that cities can take to respond to the spread of Covid-19 (C-19).

This paper outlines the key actions taken by the Mayor, the GLA and Transport for London (TfL) through to 7 May 2020, and is intended for reference by London’s key partner cities, international networks, and international organisations.

Communicating with Londoners

The Mayor has made communicating clear advice to all Londoners an absolute priority, including amplifying guidance from Public Health England (PHE) and reinforcing the UK Government’s ‘stay at home’ messaging during the period of national lockdown.

The Mayor has also sought to highlight the many inspiring stories of Londoners supporting each other through the crisis by launching a new public engagement campaign called #LondonTogether. This campaign provides grass-roots neighbourhood initiatives and the corporate, voluntary and creative sectors with clear messaging, inspiring content and practical help, delivered across every communication channel, including the latest collaborative platforms such as TikTok and NextDoor. More information can be found here.

Furthermore, as C-19 exposes the inequalities in society, the GLA has engaged with usually underrepresented groups via Talk London – an online forum where people can have their say on London’s biggest issues. It has also worked to provide information to London’s diverse communities through ‘own language’ resources on an online hub.

Helping London’s rough sleepers into emergency accommodation

As the result of a major operation by a coalition of the public, private and voluntary sectors, led by the Mayor, nearly 1,200 homeless Londoners have been given accommodation in hotels and other safe locations. Rough sleepers are far more likely to have underlying health conditions, and far less able to self-isolate, making them particularly vulnerable to C-19. More information can be found here.

Ensuring London’s food banks can continue to help the most vulnerable

London’s emergency food aid sector has struggled to cope since social distancing and other lockdown restrictions were put in place. In response to widespread reports of falling donations and a lack of volunteers, the Mayor has made repeated public calls for Londoners to offer their support, either by donating food, money or their time. The GLA, London Food Alliance and London’s local authorities are also working together to ensure food banks can escalate critical shortages, so that food delivery, volunteers and funding can be targeted accordingly. More information can be found here.

Offering a vital lifeline to struggling businesses

Small businesses are playing an important role in the fight against C-19, yet many have had to close their doors and are struggling with cashflow.

In collaboration with Crowdfunder, the Mayor has launched Pay It Forward London – a new crowdfunding initiative to support small businesses in the hospitality, retail and leisure industries. Londoners pay for goods and services in advance, which they will receive once businesses are able to reopen. More information can be found here.

Supporting the voluntary and charitable sector (VCS)

The voluntary and community sector (VCS), which provides essential support to vulnerable groups across London, is estimated to face a loss of income of £4 billion as a direct result of C-19. The Mayor has responded by lobbying the UK Government to increase its £750m support package for the sector, and has allocated £5 million to a new London Community Response Fund. Together with donations from other organisations, this Fund now stands at over £16m. More information can be found here.

Protecting London’s ‘at risk’ cultural institutions

London’s cultural organisations and creative industries generates over £50 billion per year for London’s economy as well as hundreds of thousands of jobs. To help protect those businesses currently most at risk of closure, the Mayor and Bloomberg Philanthropies have launched a new £2.3 million emergency Culture at Risk Business Support Fund. This will offer financial support to LGBTQ+ venues, grassroots music venues, London’s most treasured independent cinemas, and thousands of tenants in artist studios. More information can be found here.



  • The GLA (often referred to as ‘City Hall’) is the devolved regional authority for the Greater London area. It consists of two political branches: the executive Mayoralty (currently led by Sadiq Khan), and the 25-member London Assembly, which scrutinises the Mayor.


  • The GLA Group includes London’s integrated transport authority, Transport for London (TfL); the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), which oversees the work of the Metropolitan Police Service; the London Fire Commissioner (LFC), responsible for providing London’s fire and rescue service (the London Fire Brigade); and London & Partners, the official promotional company for London.


  • The Mayor is Chair of Transport for London (TfL). TfL is responsible for implementing the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the day-to-day operation of those transport services for which the Mayor is responsible.


  • The Mayor also leads the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC), which is responsible for overseeing the work of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).


  • The Mayor is responsible for setting out strategies for London covering transport, planning and development, housing, economic development and regeneration, culture, health inequalities and the environment, including climate change and air quality.


  • London’s 33 borough councils must work within the Mayor’s strategies but also have their own independent responsibilities, including waste collection, parking, schools, council tax collection, leisure, and social care and public health.


  • The UK Government is responsible for the National Health Service (NHS), education policy, and the welfare and benefits system.


  • Only the UK Government has the power to impose and remove lockdown measures in London, including the power to close and re-open schools.



  • 29 January 2020: first confirmed cases of coronavirus within the UK


  • 28 February 2020: first confirmed case of local transmission within the UK


  • 5 March 2020: first death from C-19 within the UK


  • 16 March 2020: the UK Government recommends that members of the public should work from home if possible, and to cease all non-essential social contact (e.g. by stopping all visits to restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, theatres and/or similar venues). The Mayor’s response to the statement can be found here.


  • 20 March 2020: the UK Government orders the closing of schools, restaurants, pubs, indoor entertainment venues and leisure centres indefinitely. The Government also announces that secondary school exams will not take place, with qualifications awarded in July based on mock data, individual assessment and prior attainment.


  • 23 March 2020: the UK Government issues a mandatory ‘stay at home’ notice and orders the closing of non-essential businesses.


  • From that date, the only permissible reason for people to leave their home has been to:


  • o shop for food and basic necessities as infrequently as possible;
  • o engage in one form of exercise per day;
  • o seek medical attention;
  • o travel to and from work, but only when it is truly necessary and when that work cannot be done from home.


  • The Mayor’s statement in response to these measures can be found here, and a visual guide here.


  • The UK Government is required to review these measures every three weeks. On 16 April, the Government announced that these measures would remain in place until 7 May at the earliest.



  • The Mayor has asked John Barradell (CEO of the City of London) to convene a Strategic Coordinating Group (SCG) on C-19 for London,


  • The SCG coordinates the multi-agency, London-wide response to the pandemic. It is chaired by John Barradell and co-chaired by Fiona Twycross (Deputy Mayor of London for Fire and Resilience), Eleanor Kelly (CEO of Southwark), and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor (Metropolitan Police Service).


  • The SCG has seven sub-groups which feed into the main SCG. The sub-groups are:


  • o Mortality Planning (Local Authority led)
  • o Community Volunteers and Funders Group (Sector led)
  • o Communications Group (Local Authority led)
  • o Government Liaison Office (Government led)
  • o Health Oversight Group (NHS/PHE led)
  • o London Local Authority Gold (Local Authority led)


  • The Mayor has attended the UK’s Civil Contingencies Committee Meetings (COBRA) and has been in almost constant contact with Public Health England (PHE) to ensure that the advice he gives to Londoners is as clear and up-to-date as possible.



  • The Mayor has written to the UK Government demanding that the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition is suspended to allow vulnerable Londoners to access support. The Mayor has also asked for the removal of the five-week wait for Universal Credit by introducing an automatic, non-repayable advance payment from day one.
  • o The Mayor’s online EU Londoners Hub has been updated to provide information for EU Citizens as well as non-EU nationals.
  • o The Mayor has written to the UK’s main supermarkets to ask for their help to address shortages at some of London’s Foodbanks. Foodbanks in a number of London Boroughs have reported critical shortages of food, and some have been forced to close due to a shortage of staff and supplies. In particular, the Mayor has requested that UK supermarkets:


  • o Organise additional direct donations to foodbanks facing critical shortages.
  • o Make priority online booking slots available for foodbanks and other emergency food aid organisations (including women’s refuges and homeless hostels) and explain how organisations can access these bookings.
  • o Implement measures to help foodbanks save time when shopping.
  • o Lift the restriction on the number of items per person that individuals can purchase to enable foodbanks to properly replenish stocks.



  • On 17 March, the Mayor wrote to the UK Government demanding extra action to support businesses in order to prevent job losses.


  • On 13 April, the Mayor wrote to the UK Government to demand that more financial help is given to London’s self-employed workers. Through the £9bn self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), the UK Government will pay 80 per cent of profits, up to £2,500 a month, to self-employed workers affected by the coronavirus crisis. However, up to 290,000 Londoners, or 12 per cent of the total workforce, and one in three self-employed Londoners, are not eligible to receive anything from the UK Government’s support package. The Mayor’s letter can be read here.


  • The London Growth Hub has launched a new portal to support London-based businesses and employers manage and mitigate their exposure to C-19. Its advisers are offering businesses a one-hour phone call or Skype meeting to discuss the impact on their business. The C-19 page on the Growth Hub website has been updated with



  • more FAQs and more information. There are now over 10 factsheets and business guides on the Hub.


  • On 20 April, the Mayor launched a Pay it Forward campaign to assist SMEs with cashflow issues. The programme will help Londoners to support businesses in industries including hospitality, retail and leisure.


  • The GLA has signed up to the London Funder statement stating City Hall recognises these are exceptional times and that grant delivery might be impacted. This means that, if a community, service or organisation is affected by the outbreak, and receives GLA grant funding, the GLA is committed to adapting activities, discussing dates, financial flexibility and active listening.


  • The Mayor wrote to the Managing Director of ArchCo, the UK’s largest SME landlord, calling on them to match TfL’s offer to its own commercial tenants. Following receipt of that letter, ArchCo announced that they will be offering three months’ rent relief to SME tenants affected by C-19.


  • The GLA is looking at repurposing £1m of Growth Hub and LEAP (London Enterprise Action Partnership) Core Funds, which were due to be available in 2020/21.



  • On 30 April, the Mayor announced a £2.3 million Culture at Risk fund to help London’s creative and night-time businesses most at risk of permanently closing due to C-19. Many of these businesses are struggling with cancellations and closures and cannot access Government support. In collaboration with the Music Venue Trust, LGBTQ+ Venues Forum, the Creative Land Trust and the British Film Institute (BFI), organisations set to benefit are those most at risk of falling into administration and unable to benefit from UK Government schemes. This will be supported by an investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies.



  • The Mayor has strengthened the Culture at Risk Office, which is currently dealing with over 200 inquiries received since mid-March. The GLA is working to showcase London’s culture online, including programmes that are part of the London Borough of Culture initiative – such as Waltham Forest’s Google Arts and Culture – and Brent’s weekly podcast, which features young people sharing their experiences of lockdown.


  • Early in the crisis, the Mayor responded to a call for urgent support to help music venues by providing a small grant (£10k) to the Music Venue Trust. This allowed them to temporarily increase their capacity to provide C-19 related advice to music venue operators.



  • An emergency support fund to help London’s voluntary and community (VCS) organisations affected by the impact of the coronavirus launched on 27 March. The Fund now stands at over £16m, including £5m from the Mayor, as well as contributions from the City Bridge Trust, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Trust for London.


  • On 1 April, the Mayor deployed volunteers from Team London and the London Squad (originally recruited to help with visitor welcome at the Euro 2020 tournament, which has been postponed) to help with staff induction and welcome at the NHS Nightingale temporary hospital. These volunteers did not have contact with any clinical operations and do not require personal protection equipment (PPE). Volunteers have been provided with training for volunteering in this atypical setting.


  • The Mayor has called for the ability of VCS organisations experiencing increased demand to claim for staff salaries via the UK Government’s 80% salary scheme, which they cannot currently if their staff are still working.


  • The Mayor has called for Londoners to support the city’s food banks. The GLA is also working with local authorities’ food policy leads to look at local food supply for vulnerable Londoners and exploring



  • support for local authorities and local mutual aid groups with advice on health, communications and safeguarding.


  • Through the Boroughs Food Group, which consists of public health representatives in each borough as well as VCS organisations and campaigners, we have helped match local authority contacts with London Food Alliance coordinators.



  • On 21 March, the Mayor announced that Londoners sleeping rough will be given vital protection from coronavirus as the GLA secured an initial 300 hotel rooms to enable them to follow Public Health and other Government guidance regarding self-isolation


  • As of 3 May, 1,132 rough sleepers were safely accommodated in hotels. In addition to rough sleepers accommodated in self-contained units as part of the GLA’s overall service offer, this means a total of 1,197 rough sleepers were accommodated that night.


  • The Mayor has welcomed the announcement by the UK Government of a three-month mortgage repayment holiday, a ban on evictions and rent flexibility. However, the Mayor is still asking Government to ensure that: o mortgage holidays are passed on to tenants;
  • o the welfare benefits system is set up to cover, in full, the rents of private tenants unable to pay them due to C-19.
  • o renters are protected from evictions by the ban that the Government announced, rather than just the extension to the notice period for evictions that the Government outlined in the Coronavirus Bill; and
  • o the Bedroom Tax is suspended, and
  • o the Mayor is given flexibility in allocated funding from the Affordable Homes Programme in order to best support the sector at this time.


  • On 22 April, the Mayor called on the Government to introduce a new ‘Triple Lock’ of measures aimed at protecting London’s three million



  • private renters from eviction in the event of rent arrears caused by the pandemic. The ‘Triple Lock’ would include three key policies: o Increase welfare support to cover the full cost of rent for those unable to pay as a result of the crisis
  • o Prevent private landlords from evicting tenants who have occurred arrears (i.e. prevent them from issuing Section 8 notices)
  • o Scrap section 21 no-fault evictions altogether


  • More information is available here.



  • The GLA is supporting the adult skills sector in London through the current period of lockdown restrictions.


  • On 31 March, the Deputy Mayor of London for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, wrote to London’s independent training providers to confirm that the GLA will make advance payments to them during the period of temporary closures. This will provide them with greater funding stability and goes further than the UK Government’s current offer to such organisations outside London.


  • The Deputy Mayor of London for Planning, Regeneration and Skills has also set out more detail about the GLA’s support for Further Education (FE) colleges delivering Adult Education Budget (AEB)-funded provision, and for organisations delivering European Social Fund (ESF)-funded programmes (including advance payments).



  • Transport for London (TfL) is the integrated transport authority for the city. The Mayor is the Chair of TfL and appoints the TfL Commissioner.


  • The Mayor and TfL have kept public transport in London running to help key workers travel to work as well as people who need to make essential journeys.



  • TfL is running a reduced frequency on the London Underground (LU), London Overground, TfL Rail, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) and London Trams.


  • There is a Sunday level of service on buses, with an enhanced morning peak, and night bus services running at Sunday-Thursday level.


  • Demand management:
  • o TfL is using core communications to advise customers to travel only if essential.
  • o Key messages have been translated into 13 other languages for use on posters.
  • o New posters have been placed up at ‘hotspot’ stations discouraging all but essential travel and asking essential workers to avoid peak times.
  • o TfL is working with London’s local authorities to communicate targeted messages, such as local foreign language radio stations.
  • o A new queueing system and social distancing floor stickers are in place at the busiest stations, with British Transport Police (BTP) support.


  • Enhanced protection for bus drivers:
  • o TfL has launched middle-door only boarding on buses and has added another lay of protection to the Perspex screen shielding bus drivers from public interaction. Further information here.
  • o It is also using signs to actively discourage customers from sitting near drivers.
  • o TfL has also written to bus operators urging them to not require vulnerable employees with underlying conditions to return to work, and to provide special leave with pay.


  • Cleaning:
  • o TfL is using a new, longer-lasting-anti-viral fluid on the Tube which kills viruses and bacteria on application. This creates a film on surfaces which lasts up to 30 days and is applied as a mist on the surfaces that staff and passengers come into contact with.
  • o Testing of a similar disinfectant is ongoing on buses, London Overground, DLR and Trams.



  • Business support:
  • o 100 per cent rent relief for all small and medium businesses on TfL’s estate from 25 March for three months.
  • o 100 per cent rent relief for all tenants who operate in any closed London Underground Station.
  • o Working with larger businesses to agree bespoke packages of support.
  • o Suspending ongoing negotiations on rent reviews/lease renewals.


  • Road charging:
  • o TfL has suspended all road user charging schemes (the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, Low Emission Zone, and Congestion Charge)
  • o It is also providing free 30 minute trips with Santander Cycles for NHS workers, care staff and police officers workers, via a specific access code available through their employer.
  • o TfL has also deferred enforcement of the tightened Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and the HGV Safety Permit Scheme, which includes the Direct Vision Standard (DVS), by four months from 26 October 2020 to late February 2021.


  • Construction projects:
  • o The Mayor is continuing to lobby the UK Government to ban non-essential construction work. TfL has suspended work, in conjunction with Crossrail on all project sites, unless they need to continue for operational safety reasons.
  • o TfL is also working with utilities, telecoms providers and the broader construction sector to try to minimise construction work and stagger site start times, to help deal with limited remaining crowding on the London Underground.


  • Car parking charges:
  • o TfL is not enforcing car parking charges on TfL property for NHS and other healthcare workers.


  • Taxi and private hire car licensing:
  • o TfL is providing a six-month licence extension for taxi/PHV vehicle licenses which have expired or are due to expire between 23 March 2020 and 30 June 2020.


  • Support to the National Health Service (NHS):
  • o TfL is supporting the temporary NHS Nightingale hospital at London’s Excel Convention Centre, including provision of buses



  • for NHS staff transfers, and the re-activation of the Emirates Airline for NHS staff use.


  • Mayor’s Streetspace Plan
  • o The Mayor’s Streetspace Plan will fast track the biggest transformation any city of London’s size has ever seen to make walking and cycling a more accessible and safe means of travel
  • o Using methods including street furniture changes, extended pavement areas, bus stop alterations and extended cycle lanes, these changes will be designed to serve the unprecedented levels of walking and cycling that we expect to see following the end of the UK’s national lockdown.



  • Since social distancing measures were put in place by the UK Government, there have been reductions in total recorded crime across London. Reductions have been seen across most crime classifications: sexual offences, knife crime, serious youth offences and acquisitive crime are all significantly below the same period in 2019.


  • However, domestic abuse incidents have seen a 9% increase compared to the same time last year, and calls to the National Domestic Abuse helpline have increased by 25% since the UK went into lockdown on 23 March. Refuges and specialist services in London have struggled to meet the rise in demand and have faced a shortage of bed spaces across the city.


  • In response, the Mayor has announced a newly established £1.5m emergency response fund to provide urgent crisis support to survivors of domestic abuse and violence against women and girls, which includes support for male and LGBTQ+ victims. The new fund has helped secure new urgently needed, safe accommodation across London for victims of domestic abuse who need to leave their homes, such as those experiencing violence, controlling behaviour, forced marriage, or are physically threatened by their child. More information can be found here.


  • The latest published crime statistics up to the end of the 2019-2020 Financial Year and can be found here.



  • Elections for the Mayor of London and London Assembly are held every four years.


  • On 13 March, the UK Government announced that the London Mayoral and Assembly Elections that were scheduled for 7 May 2020 have been postponed to 6 May 2021.






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