London mayor, Sadiq Khan, declared a major incident yesterday afternoon as he said the spread of Coronavirus was now ‘out of control’ in the capital.
The number of cases in London is now above 1,000 per 100,000 people, he said, with a 27 per cent increase in hospital patients between December 30 and January 6.
The 7,034 people currently in hospital with COVID-19 represents a 35 per cent increase compared to the peak of the pandemic in April.
Khan said that over the last three days alone, the NHS has announced 477 deaths in London hospitals following a positive test for COVID-19.
While the infection rate for the city as a whole is one in 30, it is as high as one in 20 in some localised areas.
In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he has demanded churches and other places of worship be closed and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in supermarket queues and other places outside that may be crowded.
He also wants more financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and are unable to work, and for daily vaccination data.
But according to results of the UK’s largest testing scheme, Coronavirus cases are already dropping in London.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics, which tracks the size of the outbreak through random swabs of thousands of people, suggest the capital’s crisis started to reverse on December 29, a week before the nation’s third national lockdown came into force.
Because of the nature of the illness there is a lag between the number of cases rising and falling and a corresponding change in hospital admissions and deaths.
In a statement yesterday, Khan said: “The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.”
It came as police blasted a ‘small selfish minority’ ignoring the rules and promised to come down hard on transgressors.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Matt Twist, said: “I know Londoners will be shocked that officers are still dealing with a small selfish minority who think the rules don’t apply to them by holding house parties, large warehouse raves or other gatherings. These are creating breeding grounds for the much more transmissible variant.”
And a poll reveals more people are planning to take the COVID-19 vaccine, up to 85 per cent from 78 per cent last month.
The number of people testing positive stood at 3.33 per cent on January 2. This had fallen for the fifth day in a row, down from 3.63 per cent on December 28.
Separate figures collated by the Department of Health also show cases in London have started to plateau.
Around 13,086 people living across the city were testing positive in the capital every day on December 31, in the most reliable day data is available for, down from 13,261 the day before.
For comparison, the figure stood at 2,350 at the start of December.
Despite cases appearing to have slowed, hospitals across London have yet to see any easing of COVID-19 pressure because of the three-week lag it can take between getting diagnosed and becoming ill.
NHS statistics show there are currently more than 7,000 infected patients in beds in hospitals across the capital, with 908 hooked up to ventilators. During the darkest days of the spring, 5,200 beds were occupied by COVID-19 patients.
London is also currently recording 100 Coronavirus deaths a day, a figure which has steadily risen since mid-December. But it is still only half of the daily counts seen during the first wave, when up to 200 patients were succumbing to the illness each day.
Khan added: “The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
“Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed. The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.