Euro 2020 and Wimbledon could be the “catalysts to give people hope” during an “exciting” post-lockdown summer, according to Sadiq Khan.
The mayor of London believes major sporting and cultural events in the capital could be a “springboard to a recovery” but insisted they must be done safely, with UK-based fans rather than those from overseas expected to attend.
His remarks came after he received his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine on Friday.
The Labour politician said he was “delighted, relieved and incredibly grateful” after visiting a vaccine centre at Mitcham Lane Baptist Church in south-west London.
Love that as a Mayor of Islamic faith, I received my COVID vaccine at a local church, from Reverend Dr Sue Clarke, who came out of retirement to volunteer as a vaccinator.
This is London: our diversity is our strength. pic.twitter.com/ApMgBeOLbF
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) February 19, 2021
He was asked by his GP to receive the vaccine in the current phase of the rollout due to his asthma.
Football’s European Championship was delayed by a year due to the pandemic, with Uefa still hopeful of staging the tournament in 12 cities – including London and Glasgow. Wimbledon was not held in 2020 and scenarios are being drawn up for the tennis tournament to take place at full capacity, reduced numbers or behind closed doors.
Asked about the prospect of a summer of major events going ahead in London with fans in attendance, Mr Khan told the PA news agency: “I think it is possible and I’m hoping there will be a really good summer.
“I think Euro 2020 will be fantastic, we have the seven games in London. I think we can use Euro 2020 as a springboard to a recovery, particularly if it’s domestic fans only.
“I want to see Scots coming down to London to watch the Scotland-England game and it can be really exciting.
“Similarly, I am looking forward to cultural events, to open-air theatres, to street carnivals, to Wimbledon.
“It’ll be very different this year for obvious reasons because we’ve got to recognise that international travel is not the same as previous years.
“But those could be the catalyst to give people hope and to engender a sense of positivity, but it’s got to be done safely.”
Mr Khan earlier insisted “this needs to be the last lockdown” and the Government must understand the “health of individuals is linked to the health of the economy”.
Asked how long such restrictions could run without having a long-term impact on London, Mr Khan replied: “Last year, because of the collapse of tourism, we lost about £11 billion, we’ve got hundreds of businesses currently closed temporarily, hundreds of thousands of people furloughed.
“And that’s why I am pleading with the Government to announce an extension of the business rates holiday, an extension of the VAT relief, an extension to the furlough scheme, to give those self-isolating more support.
“Because the reality is what they can’t do is wait until the Budget (on March 3) because they will fall off a cliff-edge in relation to lack of support, businesses temporarily closed could become permanently closed and those people currently furloughed could become permanently unemployed.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to get a grip with the health consequences to allow us to open the economy for good rather than stop, start, stop, start.”
He added there should be no return to the tiered restrictions in place before the current lockdown in England.
Mr Khan said: “I think the Government’s tiering system hasn’t worked, it has been a catastrophic failure and that’s why I think we need to look towards the country as a whole.
“The reality is what we can’t do is lift lockdown because we’ve seen good progress in one part of the country, which inadvertently leads to a lack of progress in another part of the country.
“I think we’ve got to learn the lessons of the mistakes made in the past.”
On the jab, Mr Khan said: “I am quite clear: once you’re invited to receive the vaccine you should say yes.
“When I was invited by my GP – because of my asthma issues – to receive the vaccine I didn’t hesitate, and the experience is really straightforward.”
Mr Khan said his mother, father-in-law and mother-in-law have also been given the jab, joking: “I’m the first non-oldie to receive it.”