The mayor of London has declared a “major incident” as London hospitals are on the brink of being overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Sadiq Khan said in a statement.
“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.”
Khan added: “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.”
The mayor said he took the decision to issue an official alert following discussions with leaders from NHS London, local authorities, Public Health England and the emergency services in the capital.
A major incident is defined as being “beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations, and is likely to involve serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.
Major incidents have previously been declared during the Grenfell Tower fire, London Bridge terror attack and Croydon tram crash in 2016.
Khan said he has written to the Prime Minister urging for mandatory face coverings outdoors, the closure of places of worship and emergency funding for those asked to self-isolate.
It comes as the London Ambulance Service is now taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day, compared to around 5,500 on a typical busy day.
More than 800 patients are being admitted to London’s hospitals with coronavirus every day, NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens warned on Tuesday.
“That’s equivalent to a new St Thomas’ hospital full of Covid each day”, he added.
The number of patients in the capital’s hospitals rocketed more than a quarter between 30 December and 6 January, with the number on mechanical ventilation jumping more than 40 per cent.
University College London Hospital (UCLH) in Euston last week warned it is now on track to become a Covid-only hospital as it scrambles to convert operating theatres, surgical recovery areas and stroke wards into intensive care units for coronavirus patients.
It comes as figures released today by the Office for National Statistics showed that coronavirus cases in London are almost double the national average.
“One in 30 Londoners now has Covid. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise,” said Georgia Gould, chair of London Councils.
“This is a dark and difficult time for our city but there is light at end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout. We are asking Londoners to come together one last time to stop the spread – lives really do depend on it.”