London declares 'major incident' with hospitals at risk of Covid deluge

Grant Boone
January 10, 2021

London's mayor declared the capital's Covid-19 situation to be critical today, reflecting the enormous strain the city's hospitals are under.

There were a further 68,053 lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, the highest figure reported in a single day since the start of mass testing last May.

Britain on Friday reported a record 1,325 deaths over a 24 period from people testing positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths to 79,833. "This puts many people at risk of serious disease and is placing a lot of pressure on our NHS". 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.

But scientists advising the Government estimate there are now more than 100,000 new infections per day and possibly higher than 150,000 which they believe puts the current number of daily cases at a higher level than ever during the pandemic.

The UK's R number has been updated to between 1 and 1.4, with the epidemic thought to be growing at between zero and six per cent each day.

If public compliance with new national lockdown rules is not strong enough, government experts fear death rates may plateau rather than dropping sharply as they did after last year's lockdown.

According to the leaked NHS England cancer resilience plan, London needs to treat more than 500 cancer patients a week to stay on top of demand, but only 122 cancer cases were treated in the city's NHS hospitals this week, with another 101 being seen in private hospitals.

"With over 1,000 people dying yesterday it's more important than ever everyone sticks to rules", a source told the BBC.

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England's chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, says in the advert: "Vaccines give clear hope for the future, but for now we must all stay home, protect the NHS and save lives".

The announcement represents a stark verdict on the threat of the virus to London's 9 million residents as pressure mounts on hospitals and ambulance services.

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Coronavirus cases are expected to drop in the spring due to vaccination plus the fact people spend more time outdoors, making it harder for the virus to spread.

The Office for National Statistics recently estimated as many as one in 30 Londoners has coronavirus.

The 7,034 people now in hospital with COVID-19 represents a 35 per cent increase compared to the peak of the pandemic in April. Scientific advisers believe the true number of daily infections is also now higher than during the first wave.

According to the London Assembly, the number of people in the city's hospitals grew by 27%, to 7,034, in the week up to January 6 and the number on ventilators rose 42%, to 908.

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