The London Ambulance Service said this week that it is experiencing a call volume equal to or greater than it experienced during the height of the first coronavirus surge earlier this year, the BBC reported Monday.
The service received nearly 8,000 calls for emergency aid on Dec. 26, around 40 percent more than the service usually experiences in a day, the news agency reported.
"It's been a horrendous time," one paramedic told the BBC in an interview. "Ambulance staff are finding the whole situation very stressful."
Patients are reportedly being backed up in the ambulance bays of city hospitals and doctors and nurses struggle to make room for the influx of patients, a result of a new, faster-spreading mutation of COVID-19 that British health authorities warn is spreading throughout the country.
"The demand is occurring because of the rapid spread of the new variant of the Covid-19 virus, initially in north-east London, but now spreading into north central London and predicted to spread further across the rest of the capital in the coming days and weeks," explained a London Ambulance Service memo obtained by the BBC.
U.S. health officials have said that the faster-spreading variant of the coronavirus is likely present in the U.S., though they have no definitive evidence yet to show that it is spreading within the country. Canadian health officials reported two cases of the new strain in Ontario on Saturday.
Figures released by the British government show both the U.K.'s positive test numbers and hospitalizations from the virus surging in recent days, with more than 2,000 being hospitalized on Sunday alone.
British officials moved prior to the Christmas holiday to shut down shops and businesses across the country in response to the surge of new cases and detection of the new strain, while many other countries have placed restrictions on travel to and from the U.K.