On January 8th, London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the city on Friday as a huge surge in COVID-19 cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals, with around 1 in 30 Londoners estimated to be infected with the virus.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Khan said as he made the declaration, which allows emergency services to take special measures to combat the crisis and has previously been applied during terrorist attacks in Central London and the Grenfell Tower Fire.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at a crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die, Mayor Khan said, reports Time.com.The previous highest daily death toll – 1,224 – was recorded on 21 April 2020 during the UK’s first lockdown. Daily deaths were in the single figures as recently as September.
Friday’s NHS data showed 31,624 coronavirus patients were in UK hospitals on Wednesday, 46 percent above the peak during the first wave last year. Another 619,941 tests were conducted in the 24 hours to 09:00 GMT – also a new record, according to the BBC. England, a large part of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are still under strict national measures intended to curb the spread of the virus, with stay-at-home orders in place for most people.
The “R Number,” shows the rate at which an infected person passes the virus to someone else. It now stands at between 1.0 to 1.4, meaning the epidemic is growing between 0% and 6 percent per day.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Our hospitals are under more pressure than at any other time since the start of the pandemic, and infection rates across the entire country continue to soar at an alarming rate.”
On Wednesday this past week, HSJ, an online health services journal, reported that “London’s hospitals are less than two weeks away from being overwhelmed by covid even under the ‘best’ case scenario, according to an official briefing given to the capital’s most senior doctors.
The number of people in London’s hospitals grew by 27 percent, to 7,034, in the week up to January 6th and the number on ventilators rose 42 percent, to 908, according to statistics. “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,” said Mayor Khan.