Coronavirus update - avoid social contact to protect yourself and others

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Mayor of Tower Hamlets message

Latest advice on coronavirus (COVID-19) 

A message from Mayor John Biggs:

Given the need to protect ourselves and each other from coronavirus, it is vital that we follow the Prime Minister's direction to avoid all ‘unnecessary social contact of all kinds - extended to mass gatherings.’

This is a difficult time for everyone and we need to look after ourselves and each other by changing our behaviour and avoid meeting in large groups.

I welcome the news that the East London Mosque will temporarily close which echoes the decision of other faiths including the decision by the Church of England to suspend services. This shows local leadership at crucial time in trying to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

I understand too that this evening's news that schools will largely close from Friday will be worrying to many of you. I want to assure you we are working hard with head teachers to make sure children of key workers, or those with an education, health and care plan, and vulnerable children can still attend school and receive the care and support they need, as stated by government.

And we will be sending regular updates as this emergency situation develops with other plans for how we can help support families at this difficult time.

More broadly - we have robust plans to make sure all of our crucial services can continue to support our residents.

We are sharing information on this as soon as it is available, but for now I want to reassure you that we are working closely with Public Health England, the NHS, schools, the police and a wide range of organisations to manage this unprecedented situation with the wellbeing of our residents, especially those that may be vulnerable, remaining our highest priority.

We will keep you posted as and when we can. In the meantime, please make sure you are following the NHS guidance on protecting yourselves and others. It is vitally important. 

Please read on for key updates.

Take care,

Mayor John Biggs

Coronavirus NHS image

Latest information

NHS advice

How to avoid catching and spreading coronavirus (social distancing)


  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds

  • always wash your hands when you get home or into work

  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available

  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze

  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

  • avoid close contact with people who have symptoms of coronavirus

  • only travel on public transport if you need to

  • work from home, if you can

  • avoid social activities, such as going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas

  • avoid events with large groups of people

  • use phone, online services, or apps to contact your GP surgery or other NHS services


  • do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean

  • do not have visitors to your home, including friends and family

Stay at home if you have coronavirus symptoms

Stay at home if you have either:

  • a high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)

Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do.

Only call 111 if you cannot get help online.

How long to stay at home

  • if you have symptoms of coronavirus, you'll need to stay at home for 7 days
  • if you live with someone who has symptoms, you'll need to stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person in the home started having symptoms
  • If you live with someone who is 70 or over, has a long-term condition, is pregnant or has a weakened immune system, try to find somewhere else for them to stay for 14 days.
  • If you have to stay at home together, try to keep away from each other as much as possible.

Read NHS advice about staying at home.

Visit the NHS website >

Pregnancy advice

If you're pregnant and worried about coronavirus, you can get advice about coronavirus and pregnancy from the Royal College of Obstretricians and Gynaecologists.

Travel advice

There are some countries and areas where there's a higher chance of coming into contact with someone with coronavirus.

If you're planning to travel abroad and are concerned about coronavirus, see advice for travellers on GOV.UK.


In line with new government advice all schools will now be closed to most children, from the end of the school day this Friday (20 March) until further notice.

The expectation is that schools will remain open for the children of key workers, or those with an education, health and care plan, and vulnerable children.  

We are currently exploring options for how this will work in Tower Hamlets with our headteachers. More information will be available soon on our website

Thank you to schools in Tower Hamlets for working hard to provide education and support to children and young people over the last month despite the challenging circumstances and the impact of coronavirus on staffing levels.   

Social distancing 

Everyone should do what they can to stop coronavirus spreading.

This means we must all do things differently. This includes:

Idea Stores and libraries

Idea Stores currently remain open, with some changes to services and opening hours. 

  • All activities (such as Storytime, Prime Time, Book Groups and Conversation Clubs) are suspended until further notice. 
  • All learning courses are now closed for this term. The summer term is currently planned to run as normal but this is subject to change.
  • Our three libraries (Bethnal Green, Cubitt Town and Local History) will be closed until further notice. 

Please visit the Idea Store website for the latest information.

Events and socialising 

We must all do our part to stop the spread of coronavirus and help protect vulnerable residents. In line with government advice, we urge you to:

  • avoid social activities, such as going to pubs, restaurants, theatres and cinemas

  • avoid events with large groups of people

  • only travel on public transport if you need to and work from home if you can


While we understand this is something many of us hold dear, it is crucial that limiting social contact extends to worship.

The East London Mosque will temporarily close from Thursday 19 March, which echoes the decision of other faiths including the decision by the Church of England to suspend services.

Citizenship ceremonies

All of our scheduled citizenship ceremonies have been cancelled in line with the government’s guidance. 

If you were due to attend, will contact you with a new date when we can. You can contact our registrars team at (including your name and phone number) with any queries.

Shopping for groceries

There has been an increase in people bulk buying in shops. This is unnecessary and can prevent others from having access to things they really need. Please do think before you shop and only buy what you and your family need so that you leave enough for others.

It has also been reported that some smaller local shops have begun price hiking essential items. This is unacceptable. If you notice any businesses profiteering, please report them to the Competition and Markets Authority or contact our trading standards team at

Useful links

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