On Saturday, London Mayor Sadiq Khan described a surge in cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant as “hugely concerning” and declared a “major incident” – a state of alert that triggers a coordinated response from the public services.
This marks the second time that a “major incident” has been declared in the British capital since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Belga News Agency reports. The first was between 8 January and 26 February this year, when there was a rush on London’s hospitals.
“The Omicron variant has quickly become dominant, with cases increasing rapidly and the number of patients in our hospitals with Covid-9 on the rise again,” Khan said, urging all London residents to get the coronavirus vaccine.
Over eight in ten new infections detected on 15 and 16 December were due to the Omicron variant, figures published on Saturday by the UK Health Security Agency show.
According to the London Mayor’s Office, the city had 65,525 new Coronavirus cases in the past seven days, 26,418 of them in the past 24 hours. The United Kingdom registered over 93,000 new cases on Friday alone, breaking the previous record for the third day in a row.
Public services significantly stretched
Many key public services such as hospitals, the fire service and the police are facing staff shortages due to absences caused by the virus.
The “major incident” designation enables the authorities to take steps to reduce breaks in service and to have more time to administer booster shots, according to the mayor’s office.
Various British media have reported that the UK Government is thinking of banning indoor gatherings for two weeks after Christmas to try and break the wave of infections.
The United Kingdom is one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic, which has so far caused over 147,000 deaths.