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London mayor declares ‘major incident’ with Covid-19 spread ‘out of control’

Sadiq Khan said that in some parts of London, one person in 20 now has Covid-19.

A woman wearing a face covering on Westminster Bridge in London this morning.
A woman wearing a face covering on Westminster Bridge in London this morning.
Image: Frank Augstein

LONDON MAYOR SADIQ Khan has declared a “major incident” as the spread of Covid-19 threatens to “overwhelm” the English capital’s hospitals.

City Hall said Covid-19 cases in London had exceeded 1,000 per 100,000, while there are 35% more people in hospital with the virus than in the peak of the pandemic in April.

A “major incident” means the “severity of the consequences” associated with it are “likely to constrain or complicate the ability of responders to resource and manage the incident”.

Khan has written to the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for more financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and are unable to work, and for daily vaccination data.

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.

featureimage File image of London mayor Sadiq Khan. Source: PA

He is also asking for the closure of places of worship and for face masks to be worn routinely outside of the home, including in crowded places and supermarket queues.

Speaking to BBC News, Khan said: “Across London on average, one out of 30 Londoners now has this virus. But in some parts of London, it’s one out of 20.”

City Hall said the London Ambulance Service is now taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day, compared with 5,500 on a typical busy day.

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Firefighters have been helping to drive ambulances and have responded to 100,000 incidents since they volunteered to help in April.

St George’s Hospital in Tooting, south-west London, has had to vastly expand intensive care capacity and move staff without specialist training to high dependency roles in an effort to tackle the workload.

The PA news agency received a behind-the-scenes look on Wednesday to the coronavirus front line at St George’s Hospital, which has seen its number of coronavirus patients at least matching the first peak.

Staff said they were “resilient” to the challenge ahead, but conceded there was little room for manoeuvre.

Dr Mark Haden, an emergency department consultant, said: “We make it look like business as usual but it’s very much not – it’s very different to our usual pattern of work.

Everyone’s stress levels are higher than usual. Everyone is working to the limit, to the threshold of what they’re able to.

“The hospital bed occupancy is very, very high, it has lots of Covid patients as inpatients at the moment. It’s very stressful for staff and that is starting to show.”

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