London will open 300 hotel rooms for the self-isolation of homeless people, the Mayor of London announced on Saturday as the UK prepares to enter weeks of social distancing to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
“Homeless Londoners will benefit from vital protection against the coronavirus, as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, with the support of the British government, has secured 300 hotel rooms where they will be able to self-isolate over the next weeks”, the London City Hall announced in a press release.
An operation to bring homeless people to hotel rooms started Friday night and will continue throughout the weekend. The 300 rooms are located in two Intercontinental London hotels and the people will be driven there in London black cabs, to avoid using public transport.
The rooms are booked for the next 12 weeks.
The COVID-19 coronavirus has killed 177 people in the UK, and the number of cases is particularly high in London.
“The coronavirus pandemic is impacting everyone in London and we must do everything we can to protect everyone’s health, especially the Londoners who sleep outside every night”, said London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
“The COVID-19 threatens us all, but it disproportionately affects the most fragile, including the homeless”, said the British Housing minister Robert Jenrick in the same press release.
Homeless people are more likely to suffer from underlying health problems, including breathing problems, which increases the danger of the virus once caught. It is also more difficult for them to self-isolate and apply social distancing measures, to find shelter and maintain body hygiene, the Housing minister added.
In 2018-2019, London counted around 9,000 homeless people.
The cost of the measure has not been announced, but the hotel rooms were booked at “a significantly reduced price”, the London City Hall said.
In the last week, France took similar measures, announcing it would open "self-isolation centres" in empty buildings across the country for the homeless who are sick with the coronavirus but don't need hospitalisation.