Council Leader Says Facemasks Best Weapon Against Virus

Stephen Cowan warns of possible tougher measures and challenging winter

Stephen Cowan at food bank at Olympia
Stephen Cowan at food bank at Olympia. Picture: Hammersmith & Fulham council

The next two weeks are crucial to stop coronavirus and “its potential to kill” the leader of Hammersmith & Fulham Council has warned.

Stephen Cowan issued the stark warning after a London-wide emergency meeting discussing what the next steps in the capital might be.

He said: “If it gets out of control over the next two weeks I think we are in for a very, very challenging winter and very negative consequences.”

Speaking at a council cabinet meeting this Monday (12 October) he said, “We can still get on top of this we can still stop it becoming a very serious lockdown if we act now.”

He said people must wear masks to prevent infecting other people. He also urged those with coronavirus symptoms to get tested and for residents to download and use the government’s track and trace app.

“I hate to use this phrase ‘we are all in this together’, but we really are. If we all pull together as citizens, if businesses pull together and all public services do their bit then we will stop this ruining the rest of this year,” he said.

Councillor Cowan said whilst the rate of infection in Hammersmith and Fulham was currently 89 cases per 100,000, elsewhere in London “there are significantly higher numbers”.

He said London councils are “in talks with the government about what do to and will expect announcements this week on measures to squash the disease from spreading.”

Londoners must brace themselves for tougher measures, he warned.

“It is extremely alarming and in part the reason the government, I think, will look to introduce extra measures in London some point in the next week, is because we collectively failed as a city to maintain the spread of this disease.”

He said the contagion has to be taken seriously as it could cost lives.

“I cannot underline enough the critical nature of the problem we now find ourselves in and I appreciate the work that citizens across our country and indeed our own borough have done on taking all the necessary measures to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones and to stop another lockdown.

“Those measures are now more important than ever before.”

He outlined ways everyone can control the spread of the disease and try to avert a lockdown and more tragedy.

“Number one has to be wear a mask. By far the most important thing is to wear a mask and stop the spread of the mist that you breathe out which is the biggest way the infection is carried.

“Number two is wash your hands and carry hand sanitiser.

“Number three is keep two metres away from other people and if you think you have symptoms get yourself tested.”

And he said businesses also have to be tough and vigilant and ensure customers and staff wear face coverings – and keep their distance.

“Clearly as we look at the disease and its potential to kill people throughout the winter months is a most alarming factor, but it is also a significantly alarming factor as to what happens to the economy. And I know too many businesses are struggling across our borough, particularly hospitality and retail businesses and there is a high degree of variance at what happens when you go in.

“I would urge all businesses that we are on their side but they need to take very stringent measures. The law lays down that people have to register and give their name on entering any hospitality business. Once they’re in there then they have to have table services.

“Anybody going into any closed space you must wear a mask. And I would urge any business owners – and the best ones are already doing this – to insist that any customer in shops, restaurants, pubs, bars, and cafeterias, you must make sure people wear a mask. That is what will stop it and if everyone does that collectively we will strengthen all of this as we seek to get on top of this contagion.”


Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter

October 13, 2020