London hospitals under increasing pressure as 5,600 Covid patients admitted in eight days

They show a surge in coronavirus admissions in recent days which is threatening to overwhelm some hospitals in the capital.

There were 6,733 Covid-19 patients in the city’s hospitals as of Monday, significantly higher than the first wave peak of 5,201 on April 9, with 814 so severely ill that they are on ventilators.

A further 82 deaths of individuals in London, within 28 days of testing positive for the virus, was announced, taking the total in the pandemic to 8,774.

The fatality rate has fallen significantly since the first wave as doctors have become more expert in treating the disease, including with specific medicines and using different techniques.

However, the number of Covid admissions is surging, with 5,667 in the eight days to January 2, including 828 on New Year’s Eve.

Some hospitals, including St George’s in Tooting, south west London, the Royal Free in Camden, Barts Health which runs several hospitals in east London, and Barking, Havering and Redbridge trust, have already been forced to postpone operations due to Covid pressures.

Eleven boroughs have a seven-day rate of more than 1,000 new cases a week per 100,000 people, including Barking and Dagenham on 1,420.8, Rebridge 1,351.8 and Newham 1,254.2, with the east of the city still being particularly hard hit by the epidemic.

The seven-day rate for London reached a new second wave high of 950.7 in the week to December 30, with no comparative figures for the first wave.

The Prime Minister said that hospitals across the country are 40 per cent busier than the first peak of the virus in April.

In his address to the nation, Mr Johnson said: “Our hospitals are under more pressure from Covid than at any time since the start of the pandemic.

“In England alone, the number of Covid patients has increased by nearly a third in the last week to almost 27,000.

“That number is 40 per cent higher than the first peak in April.”

He said that across the UK, a record number of people tested positive for coronavirus on December 29,  more than 80,000, though on previous days figures were lower than may have been expected given the Christmas break which could have delayed some individuals seeking a test.

Mr Johnson said that over the last week the number of deaths was up 20 per cent over the last week and “will sadly rise further”.

It comes after the UK’s chief medical officers raised the Covid-19 alert level to five – its highest – meaning “transmission is high or rising exponentially” and “there is a material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed”.

It indicates a risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed within 21 days without urgent action.

Dr Chaand Nagpaul, British Medical Association council chair, said: “Hospitals are stretched to breaking point, with doctors reporting unbearable workloads as they take on more Covid-19 admissions alongside the growing backlog of people who need other, non-Covid care.

“The vaccination of healthcare workers needs to be significantly sped up so that health and care staff across the country are prioritised to receive both the first and second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to help keep them free of the virus, so they can continue to provide the care so vitally needed by so many.”

NHS Providers chief executive Chris Hopson said patients were being admitted to hospital at an “alarming rate”.

He added: “The lockdown announcement will help, but only if everyone follows the rules.

“As the prime minister indicated, the roll out of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine does mean there is an end in sight and the NHS is working tirelessly to deliver the largest ever vaccination programme in history.

“But, for now, the NHS needs the public to play its part and stay at home.”

In Hounslow, there were 2764 cases in the week to December 30, up 816 (41.9%) with a rate of 1,018, Sutton 2154 cases, up 539 (33.4%) with a rate of 1,043.9, Newham 4429 cases, up 940 (26.9%) with a rate of 1,254.2, Hillingdon 2925 cases, up 617 (26.7%) with a rate of 953.2, Brent 2916 cases, up 617 (26.8%) with a rate of 884.2, Ealing 2858 cases, up 600 (26.6%) with a rate of 836.1, Harrow 2346 cases, up 478 (25.6%) with a rate of 934.1, Barking and Dagenham 3025 cases, up 595 (24.5%) with a rate of 1,420.8, Barnet 3840 cases, up 753 (24.4%) with a rate of 970, Greenwich 2771 cases, up 475 (20.7%) with a rate of 962.3, Kingston 1365 cases, up 215 (18.7%) with a rate of 769, Merton 2060 cases, up 317 (18.2%) with a rate of 997.3, Lewisham 2736 cases, up 404 (17.3%) with a rate of 894.6, Enfield 3970 cases, up 513 (14.8%) with a rate of 1,189.4, Camden 1696 cases, up 218 (14.7%) with a rate of 628.1, and Croydon 3730 cases, up 459 (14%) with a rate of 964.5.

Redbridge saw 4126 cases, up 456 (12.4%) with a rate of 1,351.8, Haringey 2651 cases, up 286 (12.1%) with a rate of 986.8, Bromley 3461 cases, up 362 (11.7%) with a rate of 1,041.4, Southwark 2684 cases, up 153 (6%) with a rate of 841.8, Tower Hamlets 3695 cases, up 206 (5.9%) with a rate of 1,137.8, Kensington and Chelsea 902 cases, up 44 (5.1%) with a rate of 577.7, Waltham Forest 2945 cases, up 141 (5%) with a rate of 1,063.2, Richmond 1272 cases, up 25 (2%) with a rate of 642.4, Islington 1749 cases, up 32 (1.9%) with a rate of 721.3, Hammersmith and Fulham 1268 cases, up 23 (1.8%) with a rate of 684.9, and Westminster 1431, up eight (0.6%) with a rate of 547.6.

Lambeth had 2618 cases, down 12 (0.5%) with a rate of 803, Hackney and City of London 2483, down 41 (1.6%) with a rate of 853.7, Bexley 2823 cases, down 71 (2.5%) with a rate of 1,137, Wandsworth 2447 cases, down 271 (10%) with a rate of 742.2, and Havering 3064 cases, down 367 (10.7%) with a rate of 1,180.5.

Health and disease experts said a new national lockdown was inevitable and necessary given the rapid spread of the coronavirus variant across the country.

Dr Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, said the point had been reached where national lockdown restrictions were needed “immediately” and called on people to respect the measures as health staff battle the virus on the front lines.

He said: “Healthcare workers are working with unselfish and inspiring dedication, but the demand is overwhelming the capacity of what can be delivered by these amazing professionals.

“They must have all our support, meaning we all respect the restrictions, helping to reduce transmission of this awful virus, ultimately reducing hospitalisations and preventable deaths.”

Professor Sir Gordon Duff of the University of Oxford, former co-chairman of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), added: “There is no doubt that we face tough times, but vaccines will give us eventual victory.”

Sage member Professor Calum Semple said the easing of restrictions in some areas over the festive period, and the new more transmissible variant, made fresh national measures inevitable.

The University of Liverpool academic told Sky News: “We’re only now seeing the start of the price we have to pay for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day mixing.

“With that and the new variant it was inevitable we were going to have to hit a hard lockdown at this stage.”

His comments were echoed by Professor Neil Ferguson, a member of the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag).

He said: “The new variant made these measures inevitable and necessary.

“The next few weeks will show whether they are enough to suppress the much more transmissible new variant which is now predominating in the country.”

Evening Standard – London