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London books 300 hotel rooms for the homeless amid coronavirus pandemic

The rooms will be booked for the next 12 weeks.
A homeless man holds a sign relating to the U.K. government's advice to self-isolate if a person has COVID-19 symptoms in London on March 19, 2020.ISABEL INFANTES / AFP via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced on Saturday that the city will be booking 300 hotel rooms for the homeless in order to practice safe social distancing and self-isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic

In a press release, Khan said, “The coronavirus outbreak affects everyone in London and we must do all we can to safeguard everyone’s health – not least those Londoners who face spending each night sleeping rough on the capital’s streets.”

Khan’s team worked with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block off the rooms in two of their London hotels for the next 12 weeks at a discounted rate. There was a trial period over the weekend for some of the homeless who are assisted by charities supported by the mayor and were moved into some of the hotel rooms.

The mayor’s team is working with cab drivers through apps like FreeNow and Gett who have volunteered to transport people between shelters and hotels. They will also continue to work with IHG and other hotel groups to work out more block-bookings as the demand and needs grow.

“Rough sleepers already face difficult and uncertain lives and I’m determined to do all I can to ensure they, along with all Londoners, are given the best protection possible,” Khan said. “My heartfelt thanks go to InterContinental Hotels Group for stepping up and playing their part in helping protect rough sleepers during this difficult period. We are also very grateful to the black cab drivers from FreeNow and Gett who have offered to transport rough sleepers to these rooms, helping them to avoid using public transport.”

According to the press release, the city of London faces the highest number of cases of coronavirus along with the highest percentage of homelessness in England. The homeless population is more likely to have underlying health conditions like respiratory issues, making their susceptibility to the virus much higher.

The hotel rooms will help provide the ability to practice social distancing, self-isolation, and have easy access to private bathrooms to practice Public Health England's advice and protocols, like proper hand-washing.

Khan said, “Together, as a city, we will come through this incredibly challenging period."