Hospital admissions for coronavirus in London and the South-East have fallen for the first time in a month amid hopes that Britain is beginning to move past the peak of the current wave.
The most recent figures show that, on Sunday, rolling seven-day admissions for London had dropped by 131 cases to 5,919 – the first decrease recorded since December 2.
Daily admissions in the capital appear to have peaked on January 7, when 524 people were taken to hospital with Covid, but fell to 473 by the weekend. In the South-East, 716 new admissions were recorded on January 6, but that dropped to 583 by Sunday, the most recent regional breakdown shows.
The current virus wave began in the South-East, driven largely by a new variant of the virus which emerged in Kent and is believed to be 50 to 70 per cent more infectious.
Hospital admissions lag around a week behind a fall in infections, and death rates in London and the South-East should begin to fall within a fortnight if the trend continues.
Daily growth in Covid-19 hospital admissions by region
Despite the apparent decrease, Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, continued to call for stricter measures in the capital including closing places of worship and making mask-wearing mandatory in outdoor supermarket queues and on the high street.
Mr Khan is also calling for a ban on click and collect services at non-essential retail chains and stronger guidance on size restrictions for weddings and funerals.
"This epidemic is far worse than it was in spring, the pressures on the NHS are far higher, yet the lockdown measures are much lighter," he told LBC radio.
The Mayor said he and Georgie Gould, the leader of London Councils, have written to Boris Johnson "pleading with him to have additional restrictions on our city", adding: "We think that’s the best way to save lives and stop the NHS being overwhelmed."
As of Tuesday, a further 1,243 people in the UK had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid, with a further 45,533 cases being confirmed by labs.
Hospital admissions are still rising steadily in the North-East, the Midlands and the South-West, although there are the first signs of a slowdown in the North-West and the east of England.
The number of people in hospital with Covid in London remains high, and has increased by 12 per cent in a week to 7,606. However, that figure is likely to decline in the coming days as more people are discharged from hospital and fewer are admitted.