London's West End may lose £10bn a year as visitors stay away

London's West End faces losing £10billion a year and 50,000 jobs because visitors are staying away from the city hotspot, local politicians and experts have warned as pictures show the area deserted today. 

Strict quarantine rules combined with the fears of infection in the UK have driven a collapse in the number of overseas travellers coming to the capital.

And domestic visitors are also well down as office staff resist calls to go back with a knock-on effect on footfall at West End shops and restaurants.

The gloomy predictions coincide with the end of the government's Eat Out to Help Out scheme yesterday, and crowds of diners made the most of the discount on the Bank Holiday. 

But today the same venues restaurants were deserted, as these photos show, after the scheme that provided 80 million two-for-one discounts at a cost to the taxpayer of £400m.

Nickie Aiken, Tory MP for Cities of London and Westminster, said as many as 50,000 people in the capital's retail sector faced losing their jobs due to the lack of visitors.

She said the loss of international visitors had majorly impacted London's economy.

Ms Aitken said: 'Almost half of the £10 billion annual spend in the West End is from overseas travellers and then the lack of office workers who have not been back at their desks since March, that has a huge effect on the overall turnover of West End shops and hospitality.

'Between about 70-80% - you're basically looking at about 50,000 job losses retail job losses in West End retail alone.'

The Prime Minister also warned today Boris Johnson today warned his fisrt Cabinet meeting after the summer break that there is going to be 'more of this wretched Covid still to come', but told ministers 'bit by bit' the UK is 'getting back on its feet'. 

Bustling West End scenes last night

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What a difference a day makes: The packed streets of Monday were left abandoned in just 24 hours in the West End

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Staying away: Many took part in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme (left) but by today (right) the same places were very quiet

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Some roads had been shut for the weekend they were so busy but by today may of them were completely empty

AstraZeneca begins final trials of Oxford University coronavirus vaccine enrolling 50,000 people 

The world may be one step closer to getting a coronavirus jab after Oxford University's vaccine candidate entered its final stage of tests in the US.

UK drug giant AstraZeneca, which owns the rights to the vaccine, said it had enrolled 30,000 American volunteers to take part in its phase three clinical trial.

It now means 50,000 people worldwide are taking part in studies to see whether the jab - known as AZD1222 - can actually prevent people getting infected with Covid-19.

Thousands of volunteers have already been injected with the experimental drug in the UK, Brazil and South Africa and are being monitored by scientists.

Oxford's Professor Sarah Gilbert, the brains behind the jab, said preliminary data from trials in these countries could be expected in the coming weeks.

Cambridge-based AstraZeneca said further trials are planned in Japan, where there has been a deadly second wave, and Russia, where there have been a million cases.

AstraZeneca and Oxford scientists have repeatedly promised to deliver the vaccine to the most vulnerable groups to Covid-19 by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, the British drugmaker today struck a £15million deal with Oxford Biomedica to mass-produce the vaccine if it is proven to be effective.

Gene and cell therapy firm Oxford Biomedica will be the sole manufacturer of the vaccine in Britain for 18 months.

AstraZeneca has also struck deals with manufacturers in China, the US, and across Europe as it looks to supply the entire world with the Oxford jab.

Oxford Biomedica says it will receive £15m as a capacity reservation fee, plus as much as £35m to make multiple large-scale batches of the vaccine if it works.

Early trials have shown promising results, with tests showing the vaccine is safe to use in humans and appears to provoke an immune response. But data that proves it protects people is not expected until later this year.

To prove without doubt that it protects people from infection, vaccines need to go through rigorous phase three trials.

 

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Ms Aiken told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: a 'huge fall off in confidence' regarding the perceived safety of public transport was partly behind the drop in shoppers.

She added: 'We've got to get that back, we've got to get businesses, the Mayor of London and Government to work together to provide that confidence to get people back in.'

The doomsday-style predictions came as Edinburgh said it had seen a two million slump in visitor numbers in August.

Hospitality chiefs said the absence of 25,000 performers and the demise of 'the after-work pint' contributed to the fall.

The number of people on the streets of the Scottish capital was down to 700,000 in August compared to 2.7million in the same month last year.

The Edinburgh Hotels Association said the average occupancy was down to just 50 per cent in August - at a time when they would normally be almost full.

The average price of a hotel room was just £76 - down 52 per cent on the same period in 2019 - as prices were slashed to try to drum up business.

Association chiefs described the situation as 'much worse than expected'.

City centre leaders said the many businesses are now in 'survival mode' following the 'double whammy' of the festivals cancellation and the lack of office workers.

Among the sectors hardest hit in the London economy have been the tourism industry and the arts.

London's visitors make up 53 per cent of all inbound visitors to the UK, but travel restrictions combined with high Coronavirus cases have made it an unattractive option for travellers.  

Visit Britain had predicted pre-pandemic that people from abroad using the UK tourism industry would bring in £30.3billion.

But when the pandemic hit it downgraded its total to £10.6billion. 

The New West End Company has also said that the number of people visiting the area increased when non-essential retail stores reopened on June 15, but was still half of what was expected.

Experts in the group, which acts for 600 retailers and landlords in Oxford Street, Bond Street, Regent Street and Mayfair, believe there will be a £5billion drop in retail sales.

Last month MailOnline told how lost fare revenue would leave TfL needing an estimated £3.5billion for the year despite a £1.6billion government bailout in May and Sadiq Khan's decision to increase the congestion charge by £4.50 to £15 a day. Tube and bus fare revenues were down 90% at the height of the lockdown.

London Councils have also lost out on £1.4billion thanks to lost income from council tax, business rates and charges for council services while each borough's spending on services during lockdown has gone up.

The Greater London Authority, which is mainly funded by government grants, has also suffered a £493million from the loss of its share of tax revenue .

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