Nearly two thirds of London boroughs have seen Covid rates fall amid hope that the capital’s wave of Omicron infections has peaked.
An Evening Standard analysis of the latest data shows the number of confirmed new cases has fallen in 19 out of the 32 boroughs. The figures cover the seven days up to January 2.
Wandsworth saw the biggest weekly decline in percentage terms. Its seven-day total of 5,405 was 1,751 fewer than the previous week - a 24.5 per cent decline.
The next biggest falls were in the neighbouring boroughs of Lambeth (1,659 fewer cases, down 22.1 per cent) and Kensington & Chelsea (519 fewer cases, down 19.7 per cent).
Parts of west and north-west London saw the biggest percentage rise in cases, with sharp increases in Hillingdon (+25.5%), Hounslow (+18.8%) and Harrow (+18.3%).
The latest figures show London is no longer the country’s Covid epicentre. The capital’s seven-day infection rate stands at 1,775.4 per 100,000, trailing the North West, which has the highest rate of 2,332.4, as well as the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands.
In a further positive sign for the capital, the number of patients with Covid-19 in the city’s hospitals fell for the second day in a row, dropping below 4,000. And the number of the most seriously ill reported to be requiring mechanical ventilation fell from 242 on Thursday to 224 on Friday - the lowest figure since December 28.
The NHS in London, as well as other parts of the country, is under considerable strain with 200 military personnel being drafted in to help in London, while around 150 staff will support the North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) from next week.
While the number of Covid patients in hospital continues to rise, the impact of highly-infectious Omicron on staff grows with absences rising 59 per cent in a week.
NHS England data shows 39,142 NHS staff at hospital trusts in England were absent for Covid-19 reasons on January 2, more than three times the number at the start of December (12,508).
The figures suggest one in 25 NHS staff working in acute hospital trusts are off sick or self-isolating due to Covid.
In London, absences were up four per cent week-on-week, from 4,580 to 4,765.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said rising Covid-19 cases were “piling even more pressure” on hospital trust workers.
He said: “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them.
“In fact, around 10,000 more colleagues across the NHS were absent each day last week compared with the previous seven days and almost half of all absences are now down to Covid.
“While we don't know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have, it's clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, Covid cases in hospitals are the highest they've been since February last year - piling even more pressure on hard-working staff.
“Those staff are stepping up as they always do; answering a quarter more 111 calls last week than the week before, dealing with an increasing number of ambulance call-outs, and working closely with colleagues in social care to get people out of hospital safely.”
Patricia Marquis, the Royal College of Nursing's director for England, said nurses found themselves “spread thinner and thinner, but they can't keep spinning plates indefinitely... this situation is simply not safe.”
According to the Health Service Journal (HSJ), staff absences across the entire NHS, including mental health trusts and other areas, for any reason including Covid-19, may be as high as 120,000.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the deployment in London includes 40 military medics and 160 general duty personnel to help fill gaps caused by absences of NHS staff.
Number 10 insisted Boris Johnson still sees no need for further Covid restrictions in England despite rising staff absences.
A spokesman said ministers would ensure the health service had the support it needed, adding that the Covid booster jab programme meant there was not the same level of pressure on intensive care units seen in previous waves.
“The Prime Minister has been clear on controls. Plan B is balanced and proportionate to respond to the Omicron variant. It is continuing to help reduce its spread. But the important thing is the booster programme and the effectiveness it has in stopping the disease,” the spokesman said.
He added: “The military have helped out throughout the pandemic and they will do so again.
“We know that staff absences are contributing to the pressure the NHS is currently facing. Of course we will continue to take appropriate measures to ensure the NHS has the support they need.”
The UK Health Security Agency said its latest data shows boosters continue to help older adults, as around three months after getting their third jab, protection against needing to be admitted to hospital remained at about 90 per cent.
With just two vaccine doses, protection against severe disease drops to around 70 per cent after three months and to 50 per cent after six months for those aged 65 and over, it said.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said there was no need to introduce a fourth jab for the most vulnerable - care home residents and those aged over 80.
It said priority should be given to rolling out first booster doses to all age groups, and urged unvaccinated people to come forward for their first two doses as soon as possible.
Professor Wei Shen Lim, the JCVI’s chair of Covid-19 immunisation, said: “The current data show the booster dose is continuing to provide high levels of protection against severe disease, even for the most vulnerable older age groups.
“For this reason, the committee has concluded there is no immediate need to introduce a second booster dose, though this will continue to be reviewed.
“The data is highly encouraging and emphasises the value of a booster jab. With Omicron continuing to spread widely, I encourage everyone to come forwards for their booster dose, or if unvaccinated, for their first two doses, to increase their protection against serious illness.”
London Covid cases by borough for the seven days up to January 2nd
Harrow - 4,586 cases, up 709 (+ 18.3%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,817.4
Hillingdon - 5,726 cases, up 1,164 (+25.5%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,853.0
Hounslow - 5,237 cases, up 829(+18.8%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,927.0
Richmond upon Thames - 3,016 cases, down 374 (-11.0%), Case rate per 100,000 of 1,522.1
Kingston upon Thames - 3,036 cases, up 26 (+0.9%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,694.7
Sutton - 4,165 cases, down 69 (-1.6%). Case rate per 100,000 of 2005.2
Croydon - 7,717 cases, down 389 (-4.8%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,986.0
Bromley - 6,365 cases, down 282 (-4.4%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,912.8
Merton - 3,923 cases, down 238 (-5.7%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,900.2
Wandsworth - 5,405 cases, down 1,751 (-24.5%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,639.2
Lambeth - 5,834 cases, down 1,659 (-22.1%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,812.9
Southwark - 5,756 cases, down 1,212 (-17.4%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,795.5
Lewisham - 5,645 cases, down 1,036 (-15.5%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,848.9
Greenwich - 5,591 cases, down 257 (-4.4%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,934.4
Bexley - 5,084 cases, down 12 (-0.2%). Case rate per 100,000 of 2,039.3
Ealing - 6,429 cases, up 717 (+12.6%). Case rate per 100,00 of 1,889.0
Hammersmith & Fulham - 3,077 cases, down 635 (-17.1%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,676.4
Kensington & Chelsea - 2,110 cases, down 519 (-19.7%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,345.1
Westminster - 3,486 cases, down 465 (-11.8%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,291.8
Camden - 3,342 cases, down 777 (-18.9%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,195.6
Islington - 3,636 cases, down 788 (-17.8%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,469.5
Hackney and City of London - 4,359 cases, down 1,026 (-19.1%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,493.4
Tower Hamlets - 5,274 cases, down 534 (-9.2%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,588.7
Newham - 6,268 cases, up 269 (+4.5%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,764.3
Barking & Dagenham - 4,387 cases, up 338 (+8.3%). Case rate per 100,000 of 2,049
Redbridge - 5,846 cases, up 708 (+13.8%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,912.6
Havering - 5,786 cases, up 545 (up 10.4%). Case rate per 100,000 of 2,212.9
Waltham Forest - 5,295 cases, up 274 (+5.5%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,912.0
Haringey - 4,589 cases, down 666 (-12.7%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,722.9
Enfield - 5,937 cases, up 415 (+7.5%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,779.7
Barnet - 6,673 cases, up 485 cases (+7.8%). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,672.4
Brent - 6,264 cases, up 644 (+11.5 per cent). Case rate per 100,000 of 1,9112.