London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a major incident in the British capital on Friday, saying that hospitals in the city risked being overwhelmed if people did not stay at home.
Khan warned that the number of hospital beds would run out in the coming weeks unless urgent measures were taken to drastically stop the spread of the disease.
“The situation in London is now critical with the virus spreading out of control,” Khan said. “One in 30 Londoners now has Covid-19. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS (National Health Service) 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 30 December and 6 January, the total number of hospital patients in the capital increased by 27%. In the last three days, 477 deaths occurred in patients who tested positive for the virus.
The number of people in hospital is 35% higher than during the pandemic in April, and there are concerns that admissions will continue to increase.
“We are explaining a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at a crisis point,” Khan said. “Londoners continue to make great sacrifices and I urge them today to please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave.”
A major incident is defined as “outside the scope of activities as usual and is likely to involve serious injury, injury, disruption or risk to human life or welfare, essential services, the environment or national security”.
The last major event in London was declared after the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 when 72 people died in Britain’s worst fire in a residential building since World War II.