London has passed the peak of Omicron infections, says public health chief

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
London has passed the peak of Omicron infections, says public health chief
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Kevin Fenton
    British epidemiologist

London has passed the peak of Omicron infections, the capital’s public health chief has declared.

Professor Kevin Fenton told a City Hall webinar on Covid that cases and hospitalisations were now in decline across London.

He said it was clear the Omicron variant, which was first noted in the capital at the end of November, was “less severe” than the Delta variant and added: “We are past the peak.”

His latest remarks appear to confirm his initial hopes, first expressed on Sky News on Sunday, that the Omicron wave “may have passed” or have reached its peak in London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan said the latest figures were “fantastic news” and hoped the Government would be able to lift its “work from home” advice when the England-wide “Plan B” measures are reviewed on January 26.

Official figures published on Tuesday night showed the first fall in the weekly average of covid inpatients in London hospitals since the end of November.

The daily total, which peaked at 4,074 on Wednesday last week (January 5), stood at 3,826 by the end of Tuesday.

The figures also showed the dramatic effect of the vaccination programme. Almost a year ago, on January 18, there were 7,917 covid patients in London hospitals – the highest seen during the pandemic.

But in the Omicron wave the peak only reached half that number – and with nine in 10 of the minority who required intensive care being found to be unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated with two jabs and a booster.

Professor Fenton said that despite Omicron being in decline it was still vital for Londoners to get fully vaccinated. About a third of residents aged 12 and older are yet to have a single jab.

“What we are also seeing in our hospital admissions is that people who go on to develop severe disease and are admitted to ICU are people who are unvaccinated or incompletely vaccinated,” he said on Tuesday evening.

“That is why we need to continue to ensure that everybody is vaccinated.

“We need to ensure we don’t leave anybody behind. From a public health perspective, as we exit the peak of the Omicron wave, we must continue our efforts to encourage vaccinations.”

He said Londoners must not be lured into believing that they did not need to get a booster if – like him - they had had contacted Omicron over Christmas.

Professor Fenton said: “Because so many Londoners may have acquired or been infected with Omicron over the holidays, it is still important for people who did become infected to complete your vaccination course. Please do not feel that because you got omicron it means you don’t need your vaccines.

“Make sure that you’re well prepared for any subsequent new variants that may appear as we continue to go through the pandemic.”

A further 56 covid deaths were reported on Tuesday in London, and a total of 379 across the UK, though the high numbers are understood to be due to a backlog in reporting.

Martin Machray, chief nurse at NHS London, said “nine out of 10” patients in London intensive care units with Covid “have not got a full vaccination status – they haven’t been vaccinated or they haven’t completed the course”.

He said: “We know it’s really, really important to have it because it saves lives. I still get that email every day that tells me how many Londoners have died. It’s still not at nought.”

Mr Khan spoke with his health advisors on Tuesday and was given “some really good news”.

He told the Standard: “Although the number of cases is still very high and the case rate is still very high, the case rate is declining in London – fantastic news.

“The number of positive cases is declining in London – positive news. The other positive news is that the admission rates in hospitals is going down.

“When you compare and contrast today versus this time last year, the number of those in hospital and those on ventilators is less.

“I think it is right for there to be a review [of the Plan B advice] in a couple of weeks’ time. I can’t predict what is going to be the numbers in two weeks’ time, but I’m touching every piece of wood I can see hoping that the work from home rule goes.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting