The NHS medical director for London has warned the capital’s hospitals face an increasingly dire situation, with the number of coronavirus patients almost doubling since Christmas Day.
Dr Vin Diwakar pleaded with Londoners to follow lockdown rules, saying: “Covid-19 is a horrible, horrible disease that leaves so many, including young people, breathless and gasping for life.”
Speaking at the Downing Street press briefing on Tuesday, Dr Diwakar said across London there were now almost 8,000 Covid-19 inpatients, compared to 4,000 on December 25.
More than 1,000 of these are in critical care, and patients from London are also being transferred to hospitals in other regions in a bid to manage the strain, Dr Diwakar said.
The growing pressure on the NHS led to the reopening of the Nightingale Hospital in one hall of the ExCel Centre in London’s Docklands on Monday – this time being used for non-Covid patients.
“This means that our hospitals have more beds to care for Covid patients themselves and for the very sickest patients,” Dr Diwakar said.
“But we cannot do this indefinitely, it comes a point where if this infection gets further out of control more and more patients from London will need to be transferred elsewhere.”
But he said that there was cause for hope due to the fact that part of the ExCel Centre, one of London’s largest exhibition spaces, has also opened up as a mass vaccination centre.
“Working with 102 local vaccine services and 39 hospital hubs and in London the NHS has now vaccinated hundreds of thousands of people, the majority of them over 80,” Dr Diwakar said.
There were a further 747 reported coronavirus deaths in England on Monday, with 149 of those recorded in London, according to NHS England.
“Please follow the rules and act like you have Covid, that will save lives,” Dr Diwakar said, adding it would allow health professionals to “serve you best and care for the sickest”.