NHS to enforce mask wearing as Covid hospital infections rise 100%

NHS trusts in the Midlands report almost a 100 per cent increase in patients catching Covid in hospital

Rebecca Thomas
Health Correspondent
Saturday 09 July 2022 08:45 BST
Matt Hancock says 'millions of masks' will be delivered to NHS staff

The NHS will enforce mask wearing again amid huge increases of Covid infections in hospitals, a leaked letter reveals.

Staff, patients and visitors will be asked to wear masks within all NHS hospitals, GP practices and dentists in the Midlands, according to the letter seen by The Independent.

The letter, sent on 7 July to NHS chiefs in the Midlands by NHS England said: “It is apparent that we have entered the next Covid-19 wave. Across the last seven days we have had a 97 per cent increase in our nosocomial Covid-19 cases in acute trust settings and a 25 per cent increase in out mental health settings, this has also included a rise in the numbers of patients who have been admitted into critical care beds. In addition, we have also observed an increase in Covid-related staff absences.

“As a result of this, we are advising that, in line with [UK Health Security Agency] UKHSA guidance, all providers review their mask wearing guidance with a view to moving back towards universal mask wearing for staff. This includes colleagues in primary care settings.”

NHS directors in the Midlands, which covers almost 60 hospitals, were also told to encourage patients and visitors to wear a mask but warned as there was no mandate to do so they may decline.

The national guidance comes after hospitals around the country have already begun to reintroduce mask mandates just weeks after dropping the measures.

During a board meeting on Thursday, NHS medical director Stephen Powis said Covid hospital admissions were likely to reach 15,000 in the next few days. The last time figures were this high was in April during the peak of the fourth wave.

During the January 2021 Covid wave the number of patients in hospital beds hit a high of more than 34,000.

Data from the ZOE Covid app recorded 325,337 Covid infections on 4 July. Around one in 10 hospital beds in England is currently taken up by Covid positive patients, more 11,000 beds occupied.

The news comes as NHS figures on Thursday showed 36 per cent of the 10,330 beds occupied in England on Monday, were taken up by patients who were being treated for Covid.

Earlier this week, The Independent reported staff absences were beginning to cause disruption across the NHS.

Staff absences were also reported to be impacting national blood supplies, as staff shortages driven donation appointments to be cancelled.

The government also is expected to roll out a fourth booster jab to over-50s, amid fears of further Covid waves alongside an early flu season.

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