Three boroughs in and around London have become Covid hot-spots, with the worst infection rates in the country, government data has revealed.
Barking and Dagenham, in east London, currently has the nation’s highest infection rate, with 1,708 virus cases per 100,000 people.
Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that a staggering one in 16 people have the virus in the area, compared to around one in 50 people across England, and one in 30 in London as a whole.
The second worst-hit area in the country is the neighbouring borough of Redbridge, with 1,571 cases per 100,000 people, while Thurrock, in Essex, now ranks third with 1,566.5 infections per 100,000.
The data comes as health chiefs and MPs in the east of London and Essex warned that hospital services risk being overwhelmed due to the recent surge in Covid admissions.
Newham, Havering, Tower Hamlets, Castle Point, Epping Forest, Harlow, Basildon and Brentwood have all recorded rates of more than 1,200 per 100,000 in the past seven days.
Government data also shows that the numbers of cases are increasing rapidly, with Barking and Dagenham only having 300 cases per 100,000 just four weeks prior.
An intensive care nurse told the Sunday Times: ‘You go home each night thinking, “Wow, that was a terrible, terrible day — tomorrow can’t possibly be that bad”. And then it is. And it’s actually worse than the day before.”
Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, said the NHS was in a ‘very, very serious situation’, and noted that it was the worst he had seen in his career ‘by a long stretch’.
Dr Simon Tavabie, who works at a main east London hospital, said he felt overwhelmed by the ‘sheer volume [of people] who are dying of this illness’. He added that some patients were dying in distressing circumstances, ‘breathless, gasping, and crying out’.
Public health officials say outbreaks are likely being driven by a combination of factors, such as high-density housing and deprivation. Residents in the boroughs may also be working jobs that can’t be done from home, therefore increasing their risk of catching the virus.
Barking and Dagenham is also close to Kent, where it is believed the mutated variant of the virus evolved. The new variant of the virus is up to 70% more infectious than other strains.
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