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Covid infections in London rocket by almost 50 per cent in a week

There has also been a 28 per cent increase in the number of people with the virus being admitted to hospital in the capital, with the number of beds occupied by Covid patients at the highest level for a month.

Kingston has one of the highest infection rates in the country, according to the UK Health Security Agency, with almost 800 cases per 100,000 population.

The neighbouring boroughs of Richmond, Wandsworth, Merton, Sutton, Hammersmith and Fulham were above 650 cases per 100,000 in the last week, as was Bromley in South-East London, UKHSA said.

Experts attribute the increase to the growing number of passengers on public transport – some northbound Victoria line services through Euston at 6pm Thursday night could not be boarded because they were so packed – more mixing outside households and the decline in mask-wearing.

Separate data collated by City Hall reported 47,159 new cases in London in the seven days to March 12, compared with 31,813 cases in the previous week.

This means the infection rate has increased from 353 to 524 per 100,000 Londoners – a jump of 48 per cent.

However the rate is below the England-wide average of 617 cases per 100,000. The daily case rate of 9,490 on Wednesday is also well down on the 37,000 a day seen shortly after Christmas, though testing is much less common.

UKHSA’s latest Covid report, which includes data up to Tuesday, found infections rising week-on-week across the country.

They were highest in the 30-39 age group and in the South West, though hospital admissions were highest in the South East.

Reinfections account for almost 10 per cent of new cases – more than 21,200 across the country in the last week.

London hospitals had 1,920 covid inpatients on Thursday, up more than 300 on a week earlier, according to NHS England.

A total of 1,300 people who tested positive for Covid have been admitted for medical care in the capital in the last week – up 28 per cent on the 1,017 in the previous week.

However, a number of these will have covid incidental to the main reason for treatment.

UKHSA attributed the increases to a range of factors, “including the gradual increase in social contacts over recent weeks, the ending of legal requirements for self-isolation and increased transmissibility of the BA.2 variant”.

Dr Mike Gent, Covid-19 director at UKHSA, said: “Covid-19 is circulating at increasing levels and while rates of severe disease and death remain low, hospital admissions have risen.

“It’s vital that everyone keeps taking the necessary steps to limit the spread of Covid. Vaccination remains our best defence against the virus, and it’s vital that everyone has had all their recommended doses.

“Please help reduce transmission by wearing a face covering in crowded or enclosed spaces, washing hands regularly, keeping rooms well ventilated.  Get tested if you have Covid-19 symptoms, and stay at home if positive.”

There are increasing concerns that the withdrawal of free lateral flow tests next month will result in more people going undiagnosed and failing to isolate.

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said there had been a “spike” in demands for test kits.

She said: “Pharmacies are receiving a limited supply from the Government and they’re worried that between now and April 1 they will struggle to meet demand.

“Some people will not be able to afford the tests and it isn’t clear if a scheme will be put in place so they can still get them free, which is especially alarming as cases are on the increase.”

Hospitals in London are also struggling with an 18 per cent increase in staff absences due to covid. Almost 1,600 staff were absent on Sunday.

NHS leaders said this would have knock-on effects on patient care.

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