London mayor seeks help as UK sees record new virus deaths

LONDON — London’s mayor declared the capital’s COVID-19 situation to be critical Friday, reflecting deteriorating conditions for beleaguered hospitals, as the country recorded its highest daily death toll in the pandemic.

The grim news that another 1,325 people had died within 28 days of a positive test came hours after the U.K regulator authorized a third vaccine for emergency use. The figure brings Britain’s official death toll from the coronavirus to 79,833, the highest in Europe. Not all the deaths announced by the government on Friday occurred on the same day.

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident,” as the rapid spread of the virus pushed hospitals to breaking point, with the number of hospitalized coronavirus patients up 27% in the week to Jan. 6. One in 30 people in Britain’s capital was infected with the virus in the week to Jan. 2, according to the Office for National Statistics.

“Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed,” Khan said. “The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.”

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A major incident is defined as one in which there is a risk to life and welfare and is “beyond the scope of business-as-usual operations.” It allows coordination between different emergency agencies and will let London ask for help from other areas.

Khan, a member of the opposition Labour Party, also wrote to Conservative Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for more financial support for Londoners who need to self-isolate and are unable to work, and called for masks to be worn in crowded outdoor spaces as well as indoors.

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