By Joe Talora, local democracy reporter
Londoners are being urged not to call ambulances unless it is an emergency as the London Ambulance Service struggles to cope with the number of Covid-19 patients in the capital.
In an unprecedented move, the NHS last night sent a text to people living in areas of London encouraging them to ring their GP or 111 instead of calling for an ambulance to try to reduce the strain on ambulance services and hospitals.
Hospitals in London are now treating more patients for Covid-19 than at the previous peak of the pandemic in April, and the Health Service Journal is reporting that some intensive care patients could be transferred to Yorkshire as capacity in London has exceeded 100%.
However, with today’s announcement that the “gamechanger” Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for use in the UK, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has encouraged Londoners to stick to the Tier 4 rules while urging the Government to act “swiftly and decisively” in rolling out the vaccine.
Mr Khan said: “We need ministers to set an ambitious strategy and a target to vaccinate at least two million people a week in order to protect rapidly those most vulnerable to the virus, to lift the burden on our NHS and to ensure the country can begin to recover from this crisis.
“I know I can speak for Londoners when I say we are in awe of the huge achievements and the tireless work of our scientists and NHS staff this year, and we stand ready to support the Herculean national effort required to deliver the vaccine to those who need it most.”
The Mayor also suggested that the Government call on the “skills and expertise” of the military to help with the delivery of the vaccine, following yesterday’s announcement that 1,500 military personnel would support the roll out of mass testing in schools.
The target of vaccinating two million people a week was first suggested this week by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, who also advised much stronger measures to stop the spread of the new strain of Covid-19 including keeping schools closed throughout January and introducing a stricter lockdown.
Speaking on the school situation, Sadiq Khan said: “The best place for our children is in schools and so I don’t want to see schools closed or children’s education disrupted. However, the rate of infection is now dangerously high in London and we know that before Christmas secondary school-aged students had the highest rates of the virus and were passing it onto their families.
“With the situation in our hospitals at critical levels, ministers must take action to reduce the spread of the virus and delay the reopening of secondary schools for in-person learning for most children until later in January, with the exception of vulnerable children and the children of key workers. This would allow time for the virus to be suppressed and for the Government to finally roll out mass testing in schools to ensure staff and students are able to return to a safe environment which does not put them or their families in harm’s way.”
A decision on whether to delay the reopening of schools is expected today, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock said to be in favour of postponing pupils’ return to classrooms.
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