London mayor Sadiq Khan. Picture: REUTERS
London mayor Sadiq Khan. Picture: REUTERS

London — Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has declared a major incident in the British capital, saying hospitals in the city are at risk of being overwhelmed if people do not stay at home.

Khan warned that the number of hospital beds will run out in the next few weeks unless urgent action is taken to drastically stop the spread of the disease.

“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Khan said. “One in 30 Londoners now has Covid-19. If we do not take immediate action now, our National Health Service (NHS) could be overwhelmed and more people will die.”

The number of Covid-19 cases in London is now more than 1,000 per 100,000 people, and between December 30 and January 6, the total number of hospital patients in the capital rose by 27%. In the past three days there were 477 deaths of patients who had tested positive for the virus.

The number of people in hospital is 35% higher than during the peak of the pandemic on April, and there are concerns admissions will continue to rise.

Also on Friday, Britain's medical regulator approved Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine for use. The health ministry said it had agreed to purchase an additional 10-million doses. Three Covid-19 vaccines have now been approved for use in Britain, with Pfizer/BioNTech's shot and one developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca already being administered.

“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at a crisis point,” Khan said. “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.”

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”.

The last major incident in London was declared after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 when 72 people died in Britain’s worst blaze in a residential building since  World War 2.



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