'New variant to blame' as coronavirus cases shoot through the roof in Hackney

An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod and COVID-19 virus testing procedures

An Emergency Department Nurse during a demonstration of the Coronavirus pod and COVID-19 virus testing procedures - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Coronavirus figures have shot through the roof in Hackney, and the council has claimed the new "more contagious" variant of the virus is the reason why.

The number of confirmed cases doubled in just one week according to the latest set of figures available, and a GP has warned hospital cases are "rising rapidly".

There were 1,328 cases diagnosed in the week up to December 15, equating to an average of 190 a day. In the previous week 627 cases were confirmed through tests.

The latest figure is 6.5 times more cases than were confirmed during the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in April - however testing at the time was limited to patients in hospital, and not widely available in the community as it is now.

Coronavirus cases in Hackney, week by week

Coronavirus cases in Hackney, week by week - Credit: Hackney Council

On Saturday prime minister Boris Johnson announced a new strain of coronavirus had been detected, which was up to 70 per cent more transmissible - however it is not thought to be any more deadly.

A council spokesperson told the Gazette: "The increase in cases is as a result of the new coronavirus variant, B.1.1.7, which is understood to be significantly more contagious."

They added: "We’ve written to residents to ensure that they are aware of risks associated with the new variant, and the importance of following the Tier 4 restrictions and staying at home this festive season. We’re also continuing to urge residents to book a test if they have coronavirus symptoms."

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The number of deaths involving Covid-19 in Hackney and the City is currently low compared to the first wave peak in April, and in the week leading up to December 11, five Covid-19 deaths occurred in Hackney residents.

Following a sharp increase in deaths between March and mid-May, the number of deaths in Hackney and the City has been similar to the average number of deaths over the past five years, and in total, 263 deaths due to Covid-19 have been registered up to December 11 in Hackney.

In a video address, Hackney GP Dr Anu Kumar thanked people for the precautions they have taken this far, but added: "Sadly however cases in the hospital are rising rapidly.

"Our real patients are dying and our real families are grieving so over Christmas let's just try to make this as safe as we possibly can, following the guidance, wearing masks, social distancing, hand washing,  isolating if you have symptoms.

"We really do want to protect this wonderful community and my colleagues, so let's just make this Christmas as brilliant and as safe as we possibly can."

Students get a Covid-19 test at a mass testing centre set up at the sports centre at St Andrews

A Covid-19 testing centre - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College has said there have been "explosive" outbreaks in schools in London and the South East in the past few weeks.

Fears have been raised that children could be more susceptible to the "mutant" strain of the virus.

In Hackney however, according to the latest figures, the largest number of cases were in the 30-39 year age group, where 324 cases were recorded - up 148 per cent from the week before.

Cases in the 20-29 year age group went up by the most at 184pc, to 324.

Amongst school age children, 175 cases were recorded amongst 10-19 year olds, and 85 in infants up to nine-year-old age category in Hackney.

There were just 11 cases in the over 80s.

Cases have been scattered evenly around the borough with the most recorded in London Fields ward with 92, and the least, with just 35, in Stamford Hill West where the virus was once most prevalent in the borough.

Hackney and the City have the 11th highest coronavirus incidence rate in London, with 466 cases per 100,000, compared to Havering which has the most with 925 per 100,000.

According to the Office for National Statistics, a third of those testing positive for coronavirus did not report any symptoms at the time of their test.