A major incident has been declared in London as coronavirus transmission rates continue to soar across the capital.
London mayor Sadiq Khan said: “The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.
“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.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.
“Londoners continue to make huge sacrifices and I am today imploring them to please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave. Stay at home to protect yourself, your family, friends and other Londoners and to protect our NHS.”
The London Nightingale hospital will be opened in the coming days - but will not be used for Covid patients, Khan told LBC on Friday.
Instead, it will be used for rehabilitation for non-Covid patients to try to free up capacity in our hospitals.
This follows reports on Thursday that London’s hospitals are on the verge of being overwhelmed by coronavirus, even under the “best-case” scenario, according to an official briefing.
The Health Service Journal said NHS England London region medical director Vin Diwakar had set out the stark predictions to the medical directors of the capital’s hospital trusts on a Zoom call.
The NHS England presentation showed even if the number of Covid patients grows at the lowest rate considered likely, and measures to manage demand and increase capacity, including opening the capital’s Nightingale hospital, are successful, the NHS in London will be short of nearly 2,000 general and acute and intensive care beds by January 19.
The latest statistics show that Barking & Dagenham in London continues to have the highest Covid case rate in England, with 3,331 new cases recorded in the seven days to January 3 – the equivalent of 1,564.5 cases per 100,000 people. This is up from 1,147.0 in the seven days to December 27.
Thurrock in Essex has the second highest Covid case rate, up from 1,314.1 to 1,494.2, with 2,605 new cases.
Redbridge, also in London is in third place, where the rate has increased from 1,191.9 to 1,467.1 with 4,478 new cases.
Of the 315 local areas in England, 309 (98%) have seen a rise in case rates in the last week.
More than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus, new analysis revealed on Friday.