Homeless people sleep outside a theatre in central London

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Reuters

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Rough sleepers already known to charities will be part of an initial trial

Hotel beds have been offered to rough sleepers in London to help protect them against coronavirus.

About 300 rooms were made available this weekend to vulnerable people already known to homelessness charities as part of an initial trial.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office is working with Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) to block-book rooms at a discounted rate for the next 12 weeks.

It comes as Londoners and visitors stay away from central London.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered restaurants, pubs, cafes and leisure centres to close.

Instead, people have taken to parks including Hyde Park and Battersea Park.

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AFP

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A souvenir stall remains open by Westminster Bridge

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AFP

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On Saturday morning there were few people walking across the River Thames

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AFP

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A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a member of the household cavalry on Whitehall

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AFP

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Westfield shopping centre was deserted as people stayed away from shops

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EPA

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Theatres in the West End were deserted after being ordered to close

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EPA

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Chinatown in central London is empty after restaurants were ordered to close

Rough sleepers are significantly more likely to have underlying health conditions – including respiratory problems – than the wider population.

They are also far less likely to be able to follow Public Health England advice on self-isolation, social distancing and handwashing.

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Getty Images

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Food is being distributed in Charing Cross to homeless people

The rooms would provide “vital protection” for rough sleepers who could use the space to self-isolate, the mayor’s office said.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “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.”

Petra Salva, director of rough sleeping services at St Mungo’s homeless charity, said teams were working around-the-clock to support people during the “unprecedented crisis”.

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Reuters

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People have been taking part in exercise classes in Hyde Park

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Reuters

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Horses are still being exercised through the park

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Reuters

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Meanwhile many have taken a stroll through Battersea Park

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Victoria Park in London is “busier than Oxford Street”

Black cab drivers have volunteered to drive vulnerable people to hotels.

Steve McNamara, general secretary at the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said: “London cabbies have always been there to help those in need and this current crisis is no different.

“Black cabs are the right vehicles for this, designed to be easily cleaned and sterilised, with a partition separating passengers from drivers.

From next week, the Big Issue will not be sold on the street to protect vendors. The charity said it was working on a way to get money and food to its sellers, many of whom were homeless.

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