‘Major incident’ declared in London due to hospital strain caused by COVID
Written by on 8 January 2021
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has declared a “major incident” in the capital due to rising coronavirus cases threatening to overwhelm hospitals.
City Hall said growing infection rates are “putting immense pressure on an already stretched NHS”, with the number of people on mechanical ventilators up by 42% – from 640 to 908 – in the week up to 6 January.
There are 7,034 people currently in hospital with COVID-19 – 35% higher compared to the first peak of the pandemic in April.
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Severe pressure has also spread to other emergency services.
The London Ambulance Service is taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day now, compared to 5,500 on a typical busy day.
Meanwhile, the UK’s reproductive or “R” rate – the average number of people someone with coronavirus passes it on to – changed from between 1.1.-1.3 to 1.0-1.4.
It is based on data up to 4 January, but the government cautioned the latest rate “cannot account for the impact of recent policy changes” such as the lockdown in England.
Mr Khan announced he is “declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point”.
He warned: “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.”
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”.
More than 800 patients a day are being admitted to London hospitals with COVID-19, the chief executive of NHS England, Sir Simon Stevens, warned at a Downing Street briefing on Thursday.
“That’s the equivalent of a new St Thomas’ hospital, full of COVID patients every day,” he said.