Mayor Philip Glanville paid impassioned tribute to the “Hackney spirit” shown throughout the community during the pandemic, as the borough faced the “gravest situation yet” as rising cases sent the country back into lockdown.
The rate of coronavirus per 100,000 people in all age groups across Hackney increased by an average 322.8 per cent over the past week compared with the rates at the beginning of December, with the latest hospital admission data for the capital showing that 828 new Covid-19 patients were admitted to London hospitals on 2 January.
Glanville joined with London Councils chair and Camden Council leader Georgia Gould in agreeing with the decision to re-enter the strictest of restrictions to try to bring the virus under control, while speaking of their sadness at the impact that lockdown would have.
Glanville said: “After nine long months of making daily sacrifices to help slow the spread of coronavirus, I know how hard the Prime Minister’s announcement of further restrictions is for families and businesses in Hackney.
“In these gloomy winter nights, the thought of still not being able to see our family, friends and loved ones is tough – particularly for those shielding, living alone, in temporary accommodation or in shared houses. The simple facts show that these new measures are, however, sadly grimly necessary.
“Coronavirus cases in Hackney are very high and rose incredibly fast over December across all age groups and parts of the borough. Over the last few weeks, I have heard first-hand harrowing stories from our NHS heroes at Homerton Hospital about the immense pressure they are under.
“We have also seen a sad increase in the number of people losing their lives to this terrible disease, including elders from Hackney’s Muslim communities over the weekend.
“Our borough faces the gravest situation yet in our fight against coronavirus, and we must all play our part to keep Hackney safe. The time to take action is now and if we don’t act, every sacrifice made and life lost risks having been in vain.
“I know that again, we will rise to the challenge, get through these final dark months, and create the time and space to deliver the new vaccines and on that promise of more hopeful 2021 we all so badly want to see.”
The borough leader warned that failure to follow the new rules would contribute to the pressure on the NHS from providing care for those hospitalised and the resulting debilitating effects to survivors of long Covid and the grief of bereaved families, as well as delaying the reopening of schools and the economy.
Glanville added that “together we will get through this”, and that both the council and NHS stood ready to support community members in accessing money, food or essential supplies, mental health or home-schooling support.
London Councils chair Cllr Gould said: “It is heartbreaking that once again we are facing a national lockdown, but it is absolutely the right decision. Covid-19 cases are increasing at a dangerous rate and the NHS is in crisis.
“This will be devastating news for all Londoners and will hit disadvantaged families, children, clinically vulnerable people and local businesses hardest of all.
“Boroughs are digging deep to protect and support all our communities across the capital, drawing strength from the resilience they have shown over the past year.
“However we will also be clear with national Government and others that more resources will be needed to deliver vital local services and support businesses struggling to survive.
“Despite the fatigue we all feel, we must all continue to follow public health advice – hands, face and space – if we are to bring down the number of coronavirus cases and hospital admissions in our city.
“By working together over the next few months we have the best possible chance of keeping ourselves, our loved ones and our community safe as the vaccine rollout continues.”
Local vaccination centres are delivering inoculations of the Pfizer vaccine to health and social care workers and those over 80 in Hackney, with Homerton Hospital chief exec Tracey Fletcher today sharing stories of staff members shedding “tears of joy and relief” at beginning to receive the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine from this morning.
Residents are being reminded not to contact their GP about vaccinations, as people who are eligible will be contacted by the NHS directly.
Across the capital, the seven-day case rate remained high, with the latest average for London sitting at 950.7 per 100,000 population, compared to a rate of 518.5 for England; at an earlier point in the pandemic last year, a rate of 50 cases per 100,000 was seen as cause to provoke lockdown planning for the capital as a whole.
Professor Kevin Fenton, London Regional Director for Public Health England said: “London’s Covid-19 infection rates are the highest we’ve seen anywhere in the country at any point during the pandemic. The new variant of the virus which transmits more rapidly is widespread and dominant across London, so the ask is simple – it is critical we must all stay at home.
“This has never been more important whilst the NHS continues to deliver the vaccine to those who need it most, and London’s hospitals care for hundreds of new seriously unwell Covid-19 patients each day.
“If you need to leave home for an essential reason such as food shopping, attending medical appointments including getting a Covid-19 test or vaccine, act like you’ve got it so you don’t accidentally spread it – wear your mask, wash your hands and keep your distance from others.
“The best thing all Londoners can do is stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.”
You can read the national lockdown stay at home guidance here.
See all of London’s latest case, healthcare, testing and deaths data here.
You can find the Homerton’s Talk Changes talking therapy service here.