Covid and flu cases in London fall in week up to New Year

A girl takes a lateral flow test (Stock image)  (PA Archive)
A girl takes a lateral flow test (Stock image) (PA Archive)

The number of flu and Covid-19 infections in London declined in the week up to the New Year, according to new analysis, in the first possible signs that the peak of the “twindemic” may have passed.

The capital saw its Covid case rate drop to 24.1 per 100,000 in the week up to January 1 – a decline of 7.2 on the week before, according to the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

The figures are based on Pillar 2 testing which is conducted in the community.

The capital now has the lowest infection rate among all regions in England and it is well over half the figure reported in the South West (70.6 per 100,000), the figures show.

Covid incidence was highest among those aged over 70 in the capital, the figures suggested, though this has also declined in the past week in the age group.

In a report released on Thursday, the UKHSA said that influenza swab positivity had also decreased nationally from 29.4 per cent to 23.6 per cent in the week up to January 1.

The flu hospitalisation rate decreased from “very high” in the week up to December 25 to “medium” in the following week, the report said.

Hospital admission rates for Covid also fell from 11.79 to 10.71 per 100,000 during the time period.

However, health officials have warned that the findings should be interpreted with caution due to reporting delays and bank holidays over Christmas and the New Year.

The latest figures show that a total of 310 patients were occupying hospital beds with flu in the capital on Christmas Eve, a sharp jump from the 28 reported on November 20.

London hospitals are facing their worst ever winter A&E crisis amid a surge in flu cases, staff sickness and industrial action by nurses and paramedics.

St George’s University Hospitals on Thursday declared a critical incident due to “significant pressure on flow” within the hospital, saying it needed to improve the “discharge of patients across all ward areas”.

It came just a day after Guy’s and St St Thomas’ Hospital NHS Trust said its Edward ward would open for “critical care surge capacity”.

In a statement, the Trust told the Standard that it had undertaken the move as part of “existing plans” for the winter and acknowledged that its hospitals were “very busy”.

Dame Jenny Harries, Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said: “In the week leading up to Christmas, we saw a dramatic increase in the number of people admitted to hospital with flu, with the highest levels of hospital admissions we've seen in at least a decade. Admissions were particularly high in the under 5s and those 65 and over.

“I urge all those eligible to come forward for their free flu vaccination, which is the best way to protect yourself from serious illness. Uptake of the flu vaccine is particularly low in children aged 2 and 3 so if your child is eligible please urgently take up the offer.

“Covid-19 also continues to circulate at high levels and anyone eligible for a booster who has yet to take it up should come forward.”