'Worrying': London Covid-19 cases more than doubled this winter, data shows

One expert told LondonWorld an increase in Covid-19 cases in London is down to the new JN.1 variant.
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The latest figures show that London’s Covid-19 cases more than doubled over the Christmas period, with positive test results consistently higher than the national average.

Cases peaked from December 14-20, where 3.8% of London residents tested positive compared to 3% across England, according to new Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

Professor Peter Openshaw, respiratory physician and immunologist at Imperial College London, accredited the rise in cases to the newer JN.1 coronavirus variant, which transmits more efficiently.

He said: “I think the rise in cases is worrying, but also not at all surprising. We’ve seen previous increases in cases happen around this time, and I do think it’s very concerning - especially for people who might be more susceptible to COVID, namely people who aren’t vaccinated.”

A surge in cases thanks to the JN.1 variant over Christmas was predicted by the WHO, which identified it in December as a “variant of interest” thanks to its “rapidly increasing spread”.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) risk assessment said: “It is anticipated that this variant may cause an increase in [coronavirus] cases amid a surge of infections of other viral and bacterial infections, especially in countries entering the winter season.”

On the number of cases being higher in London, Prof Openshaw said: “It’s very difficult to know [why cases were higher in London]. We’ve certainly seen it happen whereby different sections are affected more or less by Covid at different times… for example the North West, the east of England, or indeed London.”

It is likely that people travelling to stay with family over the Christmas period accelerated the spread of coronavirus.

Prof Openshaw urged caution when it comes to Covid-19, stressing that preventing the spread is still as important as ever.

He said: “My message would be that people should be wearing masks if they’re vulnerable, to get themselves vaccinated if they’re not, and to get the booster vaccination if you haven’t already.”

Official WHO guidance recommends that people stem the spread of Covid-19 by:

  • Wearing a mask in crowded spaces
  • Covering up coughs and sneezes
  • Cashing your hands regularly
  • Staying home when ill
  • Keeping up to date with vaccinations, especially if vulnerable,
  • Testing whether you have symptoms.

The NHS website has the latest on Covid-19 advice and services.

The WHO provides updates on the pandemic.