Welsh hospitals ban visitors amid rise in COVID patients

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There have been fears the NHS could be heading for one of the worst winters in its history. (PA)
There have been fears the NHS could be heading for one of the worst winters in its history. (PA)

A health board in Wales has banned visitors because of rising numbers of COVID patients being admitted to their hospitals.

From Friday people have been asked not to visit patients in Cwm Taf Morgannwg's hospitals in the Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil areas.

The health board told the BBC the decision was made for "the safety of our patients and staff".

The new rules mean visits in general wards have been banned, with visitors only allowed if the patient is receiving end-of-life care, giving birth, having an ultrasound appointment or attend the paediatrics of neonatal areas.

According to the latest data between 1 September and 8 September, Cwm Taf Morgannwg hospitals admitted 62 COVID-19 patients.

Between the same period in August, they only admitted 18 COVID-19 patients.

Read more: Norovirus: Fears for winter strain on NHS as cases already 55% higher than normal

(Cwm Taf Morgannwg/Twitter)
(Cwm Taf Morgannwg/Twitter)

Cases and hospitalisations have been rising recently in the UK, with cases up 15.3% in the past week and patients admitted up 2.9%.

Some of Cwm Taf Morgannwg areas have the highest COVID-19 rates in the country at the moment.

Merthyr Tydfil has 812.25 cases per 100,000 population after reporting 490 positive tests last week.

Wales currently has 407.2 cases per 100,000 people, an increase from 358 the week before.

R is currently predicted to be between 1.2 and 1.4.

Watch: COVID-19: Nadhim Zahawi says October 'firebreak' restrictions could be brought in if booster jab programme is not done 'well'

Read more: How many double-jabbed people are dying from COVID?

Last week the group's director of public health, Kelechi Nnoaham told the BBC the Welsh NHS was facing a "very difficult autumn and winter."

The health boards' director of nursing and midwifery, Greg Dix, said: "Despite easing of some restrictions in society, we are still very much living in a pandemic, and the numbers of patients ill with Covid and needing hospital care is rising each day.

"Taking this difficult decision to restrict visiting allows us to control the levels of Covid in our hospitals, keeping our patients and staff as safe as possible."

There are fears that the wider NHS could face a difficult winter with a combination of COVID-19, seasonal infections and the huge backlog creating enormous amounts of pressure on the health service.

In July, England's chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said winter "could be tricky" due to the double whammy of higher numbers of seasonal viruses like norovirus as well as COVID-19.

Senior NHS chiefs have also warned the health service is heading for one of the most difficult winters in its history.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, told iNews earlier this week: "The NHS is likely to face one of the most challenging winters on record as it tackles the backlog of care, the continuing presence of COVID-19, potentially high levels of flu and RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] and general winter pressures.

“This is all combined with a stretched NHS workforce that is currently grappling with serious staffing pressures and rapidly growing urgent care demand across all parts of the health and care system.”

There have been rumours recently about the government preparing to implement a firebreak lockdown around the October half term due to dears of pressure on the NHS, although ministers have denied this.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said the vaccination programme provides “significant defences” which the country did not have on previous occasions when restrictions were put in place.

Downing Street denied there is a plan to put in place a firebreak this autumn if there is a new surge in COVID-19 cases, but the government said there are “contingency plans” for a “range of scenarios”.

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