Londoners have worked hard to help bring the number of cases down, but we must remember that the battle against the virus is not over. As the city reopens, I will continue to support Londoners to stay safe. One of my first priorities in my second term is continued support for vaccines efforts across the city. It is the only way we are going to beat this virus and avoid more restrictions. Working with our partners and communities, we must ensure that all Londoners feel confident to take up the vaccine when it is their turn. I want to thank you, Dr Sahota, for the work you are doing in relation to dealing with hesitancy. As we overcome the virus itself, building a society where our mental health and wellbeing is properly prioritised, funded and protected has to be key to recovering from this pandemic. Mental health is a priority in our recovery programme. I will be invested in community-led programmes to reduce social isolation.
Dr Onkar Sahota AM: Thank you, Mr Mayor, and congratulations on your re-election. We have done a good job with vaccinations, of course, as well as the rest of the country, but that has been due to the hard work of the NHS staff, who have been delivering the vaccinations. What the Government can take credit for in response to COVID-19 was well laid out yesterday in the House of Commons by Dominic Cummings [Former Chief Adviser to the Prime Minister].
I am really concerned about one thing: that the five parishes you highlighted - Hillingdon, Brent, Harrow, Ealing and Hounslow - are where the Indian virus variant is rising. They happen to be on the doorstep to Heathrow Airport, which brings into question our policy on test, trace, isolation and quarantine. Are you reassured that we have quarantine measures put in place and that they are being properly administered to protect Londoners?
You raise a really important question. There is a long answer and a short answer, because of time I will give you the short answer, which is: those north west boroughs are a concern for a number of reason. We are a global city. Heathrow is the world’s busiest airport. As you mentioned, Hillingdon, Harrow, Hounslow, but also Ealing and Brent, we have been concerned about for some time, not just because of Heathrow, but the vast majority of quarantine hotels are in Hounslow. Many people arriving from countries where we are concerned come to Hillingdon and stay in Hounslow. We have been checking to make sure that there is proper robust enforcement. We have been checking to make sure those staff who work in these hotels and places, even though they are younger than 30, are receiving the vaccine.
A number of things are happening. The good news is that even though those five boroughs are separate boroughs, they are working really closely together, the chief executives and the council leaders, good support from PHE and from the NHS and from councils across London and, of course, City Hall and the Government. So we need to try and make sure we do not have this virus spreading. The game changer is the success of the vaccine against the variant first found in India, but also Test and Trace is finally working and the Government has given - and I welcome this and thank them for this - additional financial support to those boroughs in relation to self-isolation support systems, but also in Test and Trace. It is working, it appears. Everybody who arrives in London does a PCR test, which is a test for genomic sequencing to see if they have the Indian variant.
That is a consequence of our teamwork across London, we have really good relations pan-London, but also I have to give credit to Nadhim Zahawi [MP]. He has been a fantastic Minister [for COVID Vaccine Deployment]. I spoke to him this week. Party politics does not matter. He listens to our concerns and takes steps to address them. It has been a pleasure to work with him.
Dr Onkar Sahota AM: That is reassuring because the response has to be from national government and local government collectively. Just one more thing. Of course, you will have reviewed the impact of the COVID-19 and increasing inequalities in London. Have you started to look at your Health Inequalities Strategy in light of the experiences of COVID-19 and what we can do to make adjustments to that strategy?
Yes, very good question. Professor Kevin Fenton [Regional Director, PHE], who is respected around the country and around the world, is leading this piece of work. He is going to be my strategy adviser. Dr Coffey will carry on being my Health Advisor. Kevin is keen to see if we can --
Mr Mayor, would you excuse me for interrupting you? The Labour Group is now out of time, so if you could bring your comments to an end that would be great. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mr Mayor, for answering those questions today. You are free to go. Thank you very much.