London struggles to cope with an ‘explosion’ of coronavirus cases in the city: Prime Minister Johnson puts city on lockdown
03/22/2020 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

A sudden surge of coronavirus cases has left multiple hospitals in London struggling to cope, leading to operating theaters being turned into alternative intensive care units to house the growing number of patients with COVID-19, according to a report by The Guardian.

Health practitioners have been warning that the number of patients continues to rise every three to four days, many of whom are in need of ventilation to stay alive. If the trend continues, the National Health Service (NHS) in London could be treating thousands of patients within a fortnight.

In fact, a major hospital in north-west London – the Northwick Park hospital – recently declared a "critical incident" on Thursday after running out of intensive care beds due to the explosion of coronavirus patients in the area. A report from The Financial Times found that, after notifying the staff about the loss of critical care capacity, officials needed to contact neighboring hospitals to see if their facilities could accept more patients.

"Critical care capacity for patients with coronavirus is being organized on a cross-London basis so that hospitals and organizations work together to deliver the best possible care for patients," the hospital said in a statement.

“This kind of coordinated, flexible response is one of the NHS’s strengths but with staff pulling out all the stops they need the public to play their part too, by following the expert guidance on washing your hands, staying at home and using health services responsibly.”

As of this writing, The Guardian reported that there are 3,983 confirmed cases in the entirety of the United Kingdom, with 177 people confirmed to have succumbed to the virus. Northwick Park's decision has heightened concerns over whether the NHS could cope with a surge of patients, especially after a winter that saw a surge in the number of patients forced to wait on trolleys because there were not enough beds available. (Related: WHO: Europe now the EPICENTER of the coronavirus pandemic.)


London goes on lockdown

In response to the growing coronavirus outbreak in the country, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the city of London was going into a lockdown to quell the spread of COVID-19 among its citizens. Johnson announced the lockdown on Friday.

As per the announcement, pubs, cafes and restaurants in London and all throughout the U.K. are to close immediately to prevent unnecessary movement and potential infections. Gyms, nightclubs, theaters, cinemas and leisure centers likewise are also obligated to close as soon as possible.

"Following agreement between all four nations across the UK, we are collectively telling cafés, pubs, bars and restaurants to close tonight as soon as they reasonably can, and not to open again tomorrow," said Prime Minister Johnson in a statement. However, the aforementioned food services are still allowed to provide takeaway services if they so desire.

In addition, the U.K. government has also announced that they will pay the wages of employees who are unable to work due to the lockdown and the pandemic. According to a report by the BBC, the government is willing to pay 80 percent of salary for staff who are tasked to go to work by their employer, or up to £2,500 a month.

"These are unprecedented measures for unprecedented times," U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said.  "I know that people are worried about losing their jobs, about not being able to pay the rent or mortgage, about not having enough set by for food and bills... to all those at home right now, anxious about the days ahead, I say this: you will not face this alone."

Any London-specific restrictions have yet to be announced. While Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, announced that the UK government is developing plans for "stringent measures" in the city, a Downing Street spokesman claimed that there is currently no plan to restrict the movement of people in and out of the city or that there would be limitations on how many people are allowed to leave their homes.

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