One in 30 people in London—England’s capital and largest city with some nine million residents—is currently infected with coronavirus. That was the shocking statistic revealed by Mayor Sadiq Khan as he was forced to declare an emergency incident in his city on Friday afternoon.
There are now clear signs that Britain is starting to lose its battle against the faster-spreading variant of the coronavirus. The current crisis is every bit as serious as the one the country suffered in the springtime, and, according to some statistics, even worse. Khan revealed Friday that there are 7,034 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the city—a 35 percent increase compared to the peak of the pandemic in April.
“The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control,” Khan said in his statement. “If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die. Londoners continue to make huge sacrifices and I am today imploring them to please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave.”
The virus news emerging from Britain has become more and more distressing since the start of December. At the end of November, following a nationwide lockdown in England, Britain’s case numbers had declined to around 13,000 a day. Now, the new daily case numbers haven’t fallen below 50,000 for 10 days and, on Thursday, the nation recorded its second-highest daily death number of the entire pandemic—1,162.
The British government has been criticized for acting far too slowly to limit the spread of the new mutant variant that is believed to have already made its way to much of the United States. The variant, which was first discovered running rampant through London and the Southeast of England, appears to be driving a spike throughout Britain.
Around eight in 10 positive cases in London and surrounding areas have been attributed to the new variant, according to government figures reported by The Guardian. For England in its entirety, it’s estimated 61 percent of new cases could be down to the new mutant variant. As the variant apparently spreads more easily, each of those cases may present a bigger-than-normal risk of going on to cause more infections.
In Scotland, the devolved government has prided itself in acting quicker than Britain’s government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. However, despite very strict lockdown rules coming in earlier this week, Scotland is now also at risk of losing control of its fight. Like London, the country now has more people in hospital with COVID-19 than it did in spring and recorded its all-pandemic high for daily deaths Friday.
In both Scotland and England, strict lockdown measures—which banned all non-essential trips out of homes and closed down schools—have only been in place for a few days, and it’s not yet clear if they’ll be enough to reverse the surges being recorded across the island, or if even harsher rules will have to come in until sufficient numbers are vaccinated.
It’s not all terrible news—British regulators approved their third vaccine on Friday, made by U.S. company Moderna. Around 1.5 million people in the U.K. have had at least one dose of COVID vaccine so far, according to BBC News, including nearly a quarter of over 80s in England. There are also encouraging new signs that the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will effectively work on the dominant British variant.
But, for now, and for months to come, a very dark winter goes on.