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As coronavirus cases erupted in London, Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” and said hospitals were at risk of being overcrowded.
“The threat this virus poses to our city is at a crisis point,” Khan said in a statement Friday.
“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly by more than a third more patients treated in our hospitals now than at the peak of the pandemic last April,” he added. “The clear reality is that in the next few weeks we will be left without beds for patients, unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.”
A variant of the virus recently identified in the United Kingdom is thought to be more transmissible, contributing to a drastic increase in cases. “In England, the option went from rare to dominant outbreak in about three months,” reports Michael Ducklef of NPR.
“One in 30 Londoners already has COVID-19,” Hahn said. London’s ambulance service receives 8,000 calls a day, which the city says is about 2,500 more than a “typical busy day”. And nearly 500 people have died in hospitals in London due to complications of COVID-19 in the last three days.
The city declares a major incident when an event is “outside the scope of normal operations and is likely to cause serious harm, damage, disruption or risk to human life or well-being, basic services, the environment or national security,” the mayor said in a statement.
The mayor is taking steps to strengthen coordination for the medical response and is seeking more financial help for city residents who are unable to work due to the pandemic.
Londoners have been asked to “stay home, except for the absolutely necessary shopping and exercise,” Georgia Gould, chairwoman of the London Council, said in a statement.
England entered its third national block earlier this week, including a strict home stay order.
The UK launched a major vaccination campaign last month, starting with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and later including the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine. On Friday, its drug regulator authorized the use of the Moderna vaccine, giving British health workers a new weapon in their arsenal to try to stop the virus.