How New York and London have taken different measures to tackle virus

Tale of two coronavirus-hit cities: How New York and London have taken very different measures to tackle killer epidemic

  • London has so far recorded 480 cases of coronavirus with 26 deaths – making it the hardest hit area in Britain
  • New York has so far reported 923 cases and 10 deaths as bars, cafes, restaurants and theatres have all closed
  • Boris Johnson did not order closure of hospitality venues and merely advised customers stay away from them 
  • Testing in Britain has been limited to hospitals while in New York officials made tests free for those eligible
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

New York and London have had very different responses to the coronavirus crisis that has gripped Europe and the US in recent weeks.

Mayor Bill de Blasio put most of the Big Apple on lockdown while in London shops and bars are still open while commuters are still catching the tube to work – all-be-it in reduced numbers. 

While there are differences in the make up of the cities – New York includes densely populated Manhattan Island, and sprawling London covers twice as many square miles – the varying approaches have raised questions about who has got the response right.

The Big Apple and its five boroughs, with some 8.6 million residents, has a similar population to London’s 8.8 million inhabitants.

But New York City covers around half the area of Britain’s capital, taking up 302.6 square miles to London’s 607 square miles – therefore making social distancing harder over a more densely populated area.

Here we explore how the two cities are battling the pandemic.

New York has seen its bars, cafes, theatres and museums shuttered after a city-wide lockdown was imposed. Londoners, as with the rest of Britain, were advised not to go to pubs, clubs and restaurants – but these establishments were not ordered to close by Prime Minister Boris Johnson



London has so far recorded 480 cases with 26 deaths, making it the hardest hit area in Britain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people who live in London should pay special attention to government advice on isolation and social distancing, as the city is ahead of the rest of the country in terms of transmission speed. 

New York: 

New York has so far reported having 923 cases and 10 deaths from the virus. New York State with has separate virus figures has been the worst-hit in the US with more than 1,750 infections. 


Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street yesterday 


Testing in Britain was limited only to those patients whose symptoms are so bad they have to be taken to hospital.

Boris Johnson has been criticised for not carrying out mass testing, as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

WHO’s director-general, Dr Tedros Adhanom, warned yesterday: ‘You cannot fight a fire blindfolded, and we can not stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected.’

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn demanded an increase in testing on an ‘industrial scale’ – pointing to the advice from the WHO, which has been highly critical of the move to tell people with symptoms to isolate at home, without being diagnosed.

Today, Johnson vowed a dramatic escalation of the UK’s coronavirus testing capacity, saying the number of tests a day will be increased from the current level of around 5,000 to 25,000, with NHS staff prioritised.

The announcement came amid mounting alarm about the level of screening, with fury that NHS health workers are being forced to self-isolate because they are unsure whether they have the disease or not.

It has also been claimed that celebrities have been paying up to £345 to private firms for kits to check themselves for the virus at home.

China’s expert on the virus warned that ‘herd immunity’, that was championed by the British government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance, will not contain the global pandemic because the disease is highly infectious and lethal. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaking during a news conference on the coronavirus yesterday 

Dr Zhong Nanshan told a press conference today: ‘Herd immunity won’t solve the problem. We don’t yet have the evidence to prove that if you are infected once, you would be immune for life.’ 

New York:  

In New York, authorities said testing is free for all eligible residents, as ordered by a health care provider, but there have been a series of problems with getting the kits to those who need them. 

Donald Trump was also slammed for his slow response to the outbreak and for not providing sufficient tests as America’s testing system significantly lagged behind other countries.

Initially the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out faulty test kits in February which significantly delayed testing.

This was followed by a hold-up in sending replacement kits for several weeks. Then, regulatory red tape slowed down private labs who wanted to develop their own tests.

London’s West End was nearly empty after residents were advised to avoid all unnecessary social contacts and non-essential travel in London

Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the US government’s response, has since pledged to increase the availability of tests.



The British government has avoided ordering the closure of bars, cafes, restaurants and clubs.

Residents have been advised not to go to gatherings of bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson stopped short of ordering their closure on Monday.

London’s West End has become a virtual ghost town with Oxford Street and Trafalgar Square seeing a severe drop in traffic and shoppers.

Some theares shut down, but some revellers still braved the capital’s pubs to celebrate St Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, despite the government advice.

Johnson has been criticised for not ordering bars, cafes and restaurants to close and instead merely advising punters to stay away. 

Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality, said the government had left businesses ‘high and dry’, as they would have to take their own decision to close because of lack of demand and therefore not be covered by insurance claims if it was an enforced closure.

A man cycling past a shuttered movie theatre in Times Square following the city-wide lockdown 

New York: 

Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the city-wide shuttering of bars, cafes, restaurants, museums, theatres and libraries while public schools were also closed. 

He said on Tuesday he is considering making a ‘shelter-in-place’ order, meaning New Yorkers would only be able to leave their homes for food, medicine and exercise. 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo today said there will be no ‘shelter in place’ order across the state, despite considering the move on Tuesday.

The usually bustling Times Square, dubbed the ‘crossroads of the world’, saw just a handful of pedestrians and vehicles on Tuesday as the city went into lockdown.

Some of New York’s most popular bars were completely closed and Broadway was deserted as theatres cancelled their shows. 



Despite many employees working from home and adults being advised to avoid mass gatherings, schools across Britain stayed open.

In response many universities have take the decision themselves to stop holding face-to-face lectures with students taking part in classes remotely via video.

Children leaving Benjamin Altman school with school provided take out lunches, after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered schools closed due to the coronavirus

Jeremy Hunt, the former Tory health secretary and colleague of Johnson’s, criticised the PM for not acting faster, describing it as ‘surprising and concerning’.

Rory Stewart, the former Conservative international development secretary who is running to be London mayor as an independent candidate also slammed Johnson.

He said: ‘They [the government] should be acting much more aggressively to contain coronavirus.

‘Schools should be shut now. If the government are not prepared to shut them now, they should, at the very least, state clearly and transparently what their triggers will be for closing schools over the next few days.’

New York: 

In New York all schools were ordered to be closed along with social venues such as theatres, bars and restaurants. 



Boris Johnson warned Britons to avoid social contact, to work from home where possible and advised people to stay away from public gatherings. 

New York:  

The US federal government on Monday urged Americans not to gather in groups of 10 or more and asked older people to stay home.  



Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said the London Underground would be running a reduced service after passenger numbers dropped and many commuters worked from home.

But many in London are still travelling on the Underground in order to get to work. On Wednesday, rush hour commuters were still being forced to cram into carriages despite the need to keep their distance from other travellers. Trains later in the day were noticeably quieter.

New York: 

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York said it does not plan on changing subway and bus service. 

Both authorities in London and New York have been carrying out deep cleans of their infrastructure that is most used by the public, such as ticket terminals and hand rails.



Wembley Stadium yesterday after it was announced Euro 2020 has been postponed by one year until 2021

The London Marathon, which was scheduled to take place on April 26, was postponed until October 4. 

Wembley Stadium will no longer host Euro 2020 Championships matches it had been allocated after the tournament was postponed until next year.

England’s international soccer matches at Wembley against Italy and Denmark, due to be played later this month, have also been cancelled.

All London’s five Premier League teams have had their fixtures postponed after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea midfielder Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive.

New York:  

New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets games were postponed after the National Basketball Association said on March 11 that it was suspending the season until further notice after a Utah Jazz player, Rudy Gobert, tested positive for the virus. 

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