London hospitals will run out of beds within weeks if the spread of coronavirus is not dramatically reduced, the capital's mayor has warned as he declared a "major incident" across the city.
It came as the number of Covid deaths exceeded 9,000, after 164 people died in London hospitals yesterday. The total number of people who have died after testing positive for the virus is now 9,123.
We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.
He said that in some parts of the capital one in 20 people has coronavirus - compared to the England average of one in 50 - while there are 35% more people in hospital with Covid-19 than at the peak of the pandemic in April.
A major incident is an event with serious consequences which requires special arrangements to be implemented.
Such incidents have been called previously for the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the terror attacks at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge and the Croydon tram crash in November 2016.
Police officers will begin to drive ambulances to help handle the increase in 999 calls to London Ambulance Service, joining firefighters who had been helping already.
Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that 81% of positive cases from December 28 to January 2 could be compatible with the new variant. That's significantly higher than the England average of 61%.
Meanwhile three quarters of NHS trusts in south-east England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus, new analysis shows.
Bart's NHS Trust had 830 Covid-19 patients on January 5 compared with a first wave peak of 606.
London's regional director of Public Health England Professor Kevin Fenton said the situation now is the "biggest threat our city has faced in this pandemic to date".
The emergence of the new variant means we are setting record case rates at almost double the national average, with at least one in 30 people now thought to be carrying the virus. Our NHS services are under immense pressure and currently another 800 people are being admitted to our hospitals every day. We know this will sadly lead to large numbers of deaths... immediate action is needed.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Matt Twist, who leads the Metropolitan Police response to the Covid pandemic, said the announcement of a major incident was a "stark reminder of the critical point we are at".
These rule-breakers cannot continue to feign ignorance of the risk that this virus poses or listen to the false information and lies that some promote downplaying the dangers. Every time the virus spreads it increases the risk of someone needlessly losing their life.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, an intensive care registrar and president of the Doctors Association, tweeted:
St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, has had to vastly expand its intensive care capacity and move staff without specialist training to high-dependency roles in an effort to tackle the workload.
Elsewhere, new analysis showed more than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently have more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave of the virus. In two regions - eastern England and south-east England - more than three-quarters of trusts are above their first-wave peak.