The spread of Covid in London is “out of control” according to Sadiq Khan, who has declared a “major incident”.
The coronavirus infection rate in London has exceeded 1,000 per 100,000 people, based on the latest figures from Public Health England.
However, the Office for National Statistics recently estimated as many as one in 30 Londoners has coronavirus.
Mr Khan told BBC political reporter Karl Mercer that the figure is as high as one in 20 in some parts of London.
Major incidents have previously been called for the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 and the terror attacks at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge.
A major incident is any emergency that requires the implementation of special arrangements by one or all of the emergency services, the NHS or the local authority.
It means the emergency services and hospitals cannot guarantee their normal level of response.
‘My heart is broken’
Currently, there are more than 7,000 people in hospital with Covid-19, the mayor said.
This is a 35% increase compared to last April’s peak of the pandemic, he added.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, a senior intensive care registrar at Royal London Hospital, tweeted: “We tried. We really tried. NHS staff pleaded with people that Christmas is not worth it. Now one in 30 people in London have Covid and ICUs are overwhelmed. My heart is broken.”
An analysis of Public Health England figures show in the week to 3 January, the number of cases rose across all of the London’s boroughs compared with the previous week, with 17 individually recording more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.
Testing increased in parts of the city after a drop over the Christmas period but positivity was high among people taking lab-based tests – suggesting more testing is needed to find undiagnosed cases in the community.
In the past week, many parts of the capital saw a rise in deaths where a person had tested positive for coronavirus in the previous 28 days – with some areas recording more than double the number of deaths compared with the previous week.
However, reporting over the Christmas period may have affected this.
Out of the 18 acute hospital trusts in London providing figures to the government, all of them recorded having more beds being filled by coronavirus patients than in the previous week.
Barts NHS Health, one of London’s largest trusts, saw a 30% increase in coronavirus patients between 29 December and 5 January, to 830.
The London Ambulance Service is now taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day, the mayor says
The mayor of London’s announcement comes after the counties of Sussex and Surrey declared similar major incidents on Thursday.
He said the London Ambulance Service was currently taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day, compared to 5,500 on a typical busy day.
The London Fire Brigade said more than 100 firefighters had been drafted in to drive ambulances to help cope with the demand.
Every frontline agency involved in protecting the public has a legal duty to prepare for emergencies by devising and testing major incident plans.
These public bodies declare a major incident when the situation they’re confronting is so big or terrible that it’s not only likely to cause serious harm, but it will also compromise their ability to respond effectively.
In general terms, that means public bodies can legally stop delivering some everyday services, so that their personnel, attention and resources can be diverted to the emergency confronting them.
At other times, the plans will lead to the military sending soldiers to aid the civilian effort, as we have seen already during the pandemic.
Previous major incidents include the Grenfell Tower disaster in London, the Salisbury Novichok poisonings and the 2017 terrorism attacks.
London’s regional director for Public Health England Kevin Fenton said the current wave of coronavirus was “the biggest threat” the capital has faced in this pandemic to date.