London’s mayor has said he is “incredibly concerned” about the increase of Omicron cases in the capital.
Speaking to reporters from Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge football ground which is being used as a vaccination centre this weekend, Sadiq Khan also said Omicron is now the “dominant variant” in the city.
He added that he was “incredibly worried” about staff absences in the NHS, fire service and the police force due to the number of COVID-19 cases.
“The big issue we have is the number of Londoners who have this virus and this is leading to big issues in relation to staff absences and the ability of our public services to run at the optimal levels,” he said.
His remarks come as latest figures showed there were 1,534 COVID patients in hospital across London on 17 December – a rise of 341, or 28.6%, compared with a week earlier when there were 1,193.
Across the UK, 7,611 people are in hospital with the virus, a rise of 163 patients (2%) on the previous week.
Mr Khan said: “Now we are the region with the largest number of (COVID) cases. Omicron is now the dominant variant and over the last 24 hours we have had 27,000 new cases of COVID and over the last week that figure is 70,000.
“I’m incredibly concerned about the number of Londoners with this variant but also the impact on our hospitals. Hospital admissions are now going up as well.”
He also called on the government to provide financial support for businesses impacted by the spread of COVID-19 to avoid people losing their jobs or companies going bust.
He said over the last few weeks the impact of COVID on businesses has been “devastating” with theatres, live music events, and restaurants hit by an increase in cancellations.
“It is crucial – the government has got to provide a financial package of measures, grants, 100% business rates relief and more news in relation to furlough,” Mr Khan said.
“If the government doesn’t, you are going to see many many businesses going bust and tens of thousands of people losing their jobs.”
Mr Khan went on to urge those people, who are eligible, to get a booster jab and for others to make sure they are vaccinated.
“It is still the case that in some pockets of London there are black Londoners, there are Muslim Londoners, there are Jewish Londoners, there are Eastern European Londoners, who still haven’t had a vaccine,” he added.
“So reaching out to those communities… to explain why the vaccine is important and to make sure nobody is left behind, we are making sure more Londoners get the first dose.”
Despite this, he said more than 15.4 million vaccines have been given out in the city, with 87% of over-16s receiving one dose and 94% of those aged over 40 being double jabbed.
It comes as almost 3,000 sites, including racecourses, football stadiums and Christmas markets, have been turned into vaccination centres this weekend.
Staff will be vaccinating at about 2,900 places on Saturday and Sunday, said NHS England.
This includes football grounds Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Wembley and three racecourses, Sandown Park, Bath and Chelmsford.
Other venues open this weekend include the Christmas Market at Chester Cathedral, the Liverpool Christmas Ice Festival, Bluewater shopping centre in Kent and London’s Oxford Street where there will be a vaccine bus.