Hospitals forced to reintroduce masks after spike in Covid admissions

Hospitals forced to reintroduce masks after spike in Covid admissions

Hospitals have been forced to reintroduce mask-wearing in a bid to tackle growing winter pressures following a spike in Covid and flu admissions.

Figures published by the NHS also show the number of patients in hospital with Covid last week grew to an average of 4,046 each day, compared to an average of 3,751 in the week prior.

Weekly admissions also increased in the seven days up to 5 January with 3,984 people admitted compared to 3,731 – a 7 per cent increase.

According to the latest infection survey from the Office for National Statistics, 2.7 per cent of people tested positive for Covid-19 between 28 December and 3 January, compared to 3 per cent the week before.

Meanwhile, flu admissions are also on the rise as weekly figures show there were an average of 1,548 flu patients in hospital each day last week, including 107 in critical care – up from 1,312 in the last week of December 2023.

In addition to flu, an average of 424 patients were in hospital with norovirus each day last week.

Following the surge in Covid and winter viruses, at least three NHS hospitals have reintroduced mask-wearing – United Lincolnshire Hospitals Foundation Trust, Sherwood Forest Hospitals, and Barnsley Hospital.

This week Spain’s government reintroduced mandatory mask wearing in hospitals and health centres.

It follows a recommendation by the World Health Organisation to reintroduce masks in health facilities in the week before Christmas and calls by the Royal College of Nursing for the UK to follow the advice.

NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency have not yet told hospitals to enforce mask-wearing again, although some hospitals have now begun of their own accord.

According to the latest weekly figures, the number of NHS staff off sick with Covid rose to an average of 2,679 a day compared to 2,378 a day the week before.

Covid pressures come as hospitals are facing increased demand during winter. The latest NHS data shows in December A&E waiting times worsened with 151,000 people waiting more than 12 hours from arrival in A&E compared to 147,000 in November.

Last week the head of the U.N. health agency Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said holiday gatherings and the spread of the most prominent variant globally led to increased transmission of Covid-19 last month.

From 30 October to 5 November, a new Covid subvariant - JN.1 - was estimated to make up 3.3 per cent of global Covid-19 cases. On 19 December, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated JN.1 made up 27.1 per cent of all Covid-19 cases worldwide.