Fears over Covid-19 spread behind Northampton General Hospital suspending visiting for majority of patients from today

NGH chiefs confirm they took 'difficult decision to reduce risk of Covid-19 being introduced at time when infections are rising rapidly'

Northampton General Hospital says it banned the majority of visitors to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infections as cases in the community soar.

NGH revealed that visiting would be suspended immediately in all but a few limited circumstances in social media posts on Friday (December 31).

It added that "the health, wellbeing, and safety" of patients and staff is its primary concern" but did not expand on any specific reasons for the change.

The majority of visitors will not be allowed in to see loved ones from January 1 at Northamptonshire's two main hospitals

Kettering General Hospital and a host of other hospitals across England have since followed suit with similar restrictions from New Year's Day.

The move follows record numbers of positive tests across Northamptonshire with up to 10,000 new cases in the last week.

A spokesman for the two hospitals later said: “We have taken the difficult decision to suspend visiting to reduce the risk of Covid-19 being introduced into the hospital environment at a time when infections in the community are rising rapidly.

"Visiting will be allowed in limited circumstances and we will reintroduce virtual facilities at both our hospitals so patients can chat to friends and family.

How the daily number of new Covid cases in Northants has multiplied by nearly five times since mid-December

"We apologise for having to take this step as we are fully aware of the impact suspending visiting has on our patients and those close to them.

"We know our local community will understand that safety is always our top priority when caring for our patients.”

Limited circumstances include patients who are in the last days of life, birthing partners accompanying women in labour, patients with a learning disability or autism and one parent or appropriate adult visiting a child.

Visits will also be considered on a "case-by-case basis" where not allowing would significantly impact on a patient's welfare.

The number of new cases reported daily in Northamptonshire multiplied from 439 on December 13 to in excess of 2,000 by Thursday (December 30).

Ahead of tonight's New Year's Eve celebrations, concerns have been raised about a shortage of lateral flow test devices contributing to a further spreading of the virus among those with no symptoms.

Official figures showed 96 coronavirus patients were being treated in Northamptonshire's hospitals on Tuesday (December 28), compared to 122 on December 13.

Covid patients in KGH are down by more than one-third from 62 in mid-December to 39 this week.

Totals included 14 patients requiring mechanical ventilation to aid breathing and another 14 who were being treated in critical care units.

NHS England has also confirmed 45 Covid patients sadly died in the two hospitals during December, including four most recently between Christmas Day and December 27.

But recent rises in case numbers has also affected staffing levels with nearly eight per cent of the hospitals' 8,000 workforce absent on Boxing Day through sickness or self-isolation requirements.