Covid: London moving towards 'exponential growth' phase as coronavirus rates rise across the capital

MPs in the capital have been told in a briefing with health officials that cases are continuing to rise.

London is moving towards a phase of “exponential growth” in its number of coronavirus cases, MPs in the capital have been told by health officials in a briefing this morning.

MPs representing constituencies in the capital took part in a virtual briefing with health minister Helen Whatley, and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries this morning, where they were informed the potential for spread has now “escalated”.

They were told Covid-19 case rates are rising in all parts of the capital, demonstrated by the below graph, which shows a surge in infections.

The NHS is under “significant pressure” and adult critical care capacity is at 93.9% in London, MPs were warned during the briefing.

The majority of that pressure is in the north east of the city, where the situation is most severe.

Dr Harries was keen to emphasise on the call that the data we see now has not yet turned into hospital admissions but MPs were warned a decision will need to be taken about stepping down non-Covid care if the spike in cases affects hospitals.

The fear is that the rise in cases will have a big effect on the NHS in the future (more accurately in a couple of weeks time) if not dealt with.

Another graph MPs were shown shows the spike in cases has mostly come from those aged between 16-29.

Given the number of cases among young people, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has written to the prime minister about the situation and said that “urgent consideration must… be given to closing secondary schools, sixth form and FE colleges a few days early and keeping them closed for longer after Christmas".

But this was more or less dismissed at the briefing by Dr Harries, who said: “Closing schools has a really significant short and long-term impact on the general wellbeing of children and their life chances and their future families. This is a really important consideration.”

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the government wants schools to remain open, and "the best place for pupils is in schools".

I’m told there have been briefings from health officials over the last 72 hours with chief executives and business leaders across London talking them through the data and warning about the rise in coronavirus cases.

One MP tells me it “seems inevitable” that London will be heading into Tier 3, while another says they “can’t see it going any other way”.

Roughly 84 people were on the briefing call, the vast majority London MPs.

One Labour MP in particular was extremely unimpressed and told me Christmas needed to be cancelled.

“This whole fiasco has been made worse by government incompetence. Incompetence in testing, tracking, tracing, isolation and financial support.

"Lockdown has always bought us time but its not a solution. It never has been. Let's be honest Christmas needs to be cancelled or at the very least you start self isolating from today.”

It comes after there were rumours that London might be split between Tier 2 and Tier 3 after data suggested boroughs across the capital had significant differences in the case rate. Last week I shared the figure that London MPs were shown at the previous briefing with Health Ministers which demonstrated the discrepancies across the city.

As it stands, the decision on whether London should move into Tier 3 will be taken on December 16 and I’m told it will be implemented on December 19.

I should add that several sources have told me this is “a critical matter” and it’s a “fasting moving situation” - an announcement could come earlier and potentially even as soon as today.

Follow @ShehabKhan on Twitter.