Sadiq Khan has declared a ‘major incident’ in London as the number of COVID-19 hospital rises by a quarter in one week.
The mayor is also calling for face masks to be worn outside, places of communal worship to be closed, and more financial support for businesses and residents to tackle the emergency.
Between December 30 and January 6 the number of patients in London’s hospitals grew by more than a quarter (from 5,524 to 7,034).
The number of patients on ventilators also sharply increased, rising by 42 per cent (from 640 to 908). In the last three days, 477 people died in London after having positive COVID-19 tests.
Around 830 people are being admitted to London hospital trusts per day – up from around 500 before Christmas. This is expected to rise in the coming weeks.
Today the London Fire Brigade announced hundreds of its firefighters had volunteered to drive ambulances, as they did in April during the first wave.
The London Ambulance Service is now taking up to 8,000 emergency calls a day now, compared to 5,500 on a typical busy day.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, said: “The situation in London is now critical with the spread of the virus out of control.
“The number of cases in London has increased rapidly with more than a third more patients being treated in our hospitals now compared to the peak of the pandemic last April.
“Our heroic doctors, nurses and NHS staff are doing an amazing job, but with cases rising so rapidly, our hospitals are at risk of being overwhelmed.
“The stark reality is that we will run out of beds for patients in the next couple of weeks unless the spread of the virus slows down drastically.
“We are declaring a major incident because the threat this virus poses to our city is at crisis point. If we do not take immediate action now, our NHS could be overwhelmed and more people will die.
“Londoners continue to make huge sacrifices and I am today imploring them to please stay at home unless it is absolutely necessary for you to leave.
“Stay at home to protect yourself, your family, friends and other Londoners and to protect our NHS.”
Previous major incidents were declared by City Hall include the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the terror attacks at Westminster Bridge and London Bridge and the Croydon tram crash in November 2016.
Georgia Gould, Chair of London Councils, said: “Cases are rising at a dangerous rate in London, putting extreme pressure on the NHS.
“One in 30 Londoners now has COVID. This is why public services across London are urging all Londoners to please stay at home except for absolutely essential shopping and exercise.
“We know how tough this is for Londoners. Councils are here to support anyone struggling to access food or medicine.
“Today, the thoughts of London leaders are with the thousands of Londoners in hospital battling Covid and the amazing carers fighting to save lives.
“We owe it to them to do all we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
“This is a dark and difficult time for our city but there is light at the end of the tunnel with the vaccine rollout.
‘We are asking Londoners to come together one last time to stop the spread – lives really do depend on it.”