The number of people hospitalised with Covid in London is nearly at 8,000 – almost double what it was on Christmas Day, NHS England’s Regional Medical Director for London Vin Diwakar said during a Downing Street news briefing on Tuesday.

In response to the caseload, he said the Nightingale field hospital in East London had been re-opened on Monday in an effort to ease some of the pressure on the health service, while stressing that the measure could not remain in place indefinitely.

“If the infection gets further out of control, more and more patients from London will need to be transferred elsewhere,” he said, as he urged the public to follow the rules designed to stem the spread of coronavirus.

The first patient has now been admitted to the Nightingale London, the UK’s flagship field hospital, which was placed on standby in May and later largely dismantled, with most of its ventilators and 4,000 beds reportedly stripped out.

In its latest set-up, the hospital is now said to have beds for just 64 patients – a significant reduction on its previous capacity.

Built inside London’s ExCel Conference Centre, it will now be used to treat patients who do not have Covid-19, Diwakar said. It’s reported it may be used for those recovering from the virus.

Last week, London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the capital over Covid-19, and warned of the “out of control” spread of the virus in the city.

The UK reported a further 1,243 deaths due to Covid-19 on Tuesday, the second-highest number of daily fatalities of the whole pandemic, taking the total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive test to 83,203.

It also recorded a further 45,533 new cases of the virus.