Hospitals are set to bring back the wearing of face coverings and reinstate social distancing measures in a bid to curb a recent surge in Covid cases.
Trusts from Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Devon and Wales have all reinstated guidance that urges people to mask-up because of a spike in infections.
Figures from NHS England show there were around 10,658 patients hospitalised with the virus on Monday.
Infections have doubled in a fortnight across England — with around 1,000 patients now being admitted with the virus each day.
There are fears that a new sweep of the latest Covid variant could decimate NHS staff levels once more, causing knock-on effects for ambulance wait times and the availability of specialists and operations.
Data from the Office for National Statistics showed 2.3million people had coronavirus in the week ending June 24, a 32 per cent rise from the previous week.
Experts believe the latest flare-up in cases are likely linked to the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron, which could push the total number of patients above April’s peak of 16,600.
Those variations are thought to be more infectious but just as mild as the original Omicron strain.
The Government has said it is monitoring the situation ‘very quickly’ but does not yet plan to reintroduce restrictions.
Hospitals are set to bring back the wearing of face coverings and reinstate social distancing measures in a bid to curb a recent surge in Covid cases. Pictured: A nurse in King’s College Hospital wears a mask in the critical care unit of the hospital in December 2021
There are fears that a new sweep of the latest Covid variant could decimate NHS staff levels once more, causing knock-on effects for ambulance wait times and the availability of specialists and operations
Infections have doubled in a fortnight across England — with around 1,000 patients now being admitted with the virus each day
Covid infections have shot up in England to just over 1.8million according to the latest Office of National Statistics data
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust claimed its update was to ‘reduce further spread of Covid and keep patients and staff safe’.
Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, in Nottinghamshire, said it was ‘vital we take decisive action to protect our most vulnerable patients’.
Similar reinstatement messages were put out by Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust and North West Anglia NHS Trust. The guidance is no longer legally enforceable.
When the national NHS masking rules were dropped on June 10, local health bodies were given the power to draft their own policies, with several trusts still demanding patients and visitors wore face coverings.
But cases have risen sharply over the past month, with statisticians estimating one in 30 people were carrying the virus in England last week.
NHS England wrote to all local health bodies on July 10 to set out new rules on mask wearing issued by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
Covid guidance was continuing to impact on ‘capacity and flow’, bosses said at the time.
Patients admitted with Covid or suspected to have Covid should be provided with a face mask. Staff should still wear masks when dealing with Covid patients.
Dr Lara Alloway, chief medical officer at Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: ‘We have taken the hard decision to require that surgical masks be worn by all persons – staff, visitors and patients – on our sites.
‘This applies to all non-clinical areas, inclusive of corridors, waiting/ staff rooms and offices, as well as clinical areas such as wards. In addition, we strongly encourage social distancing of at least 1 metre in our hospitals whenever possible.
‘These measures have been brought in due to a significant increase in the number of Covid-19 positive patients in our hospitals, very high rates in the community and increasing levels of staff sickness. At present, we are making no changes to our visiting policies’.
Face masks have been brought back in NHS hospitals because of a resurgence in Covid cases just weeks after the rules were ditched. Pictured: Kings Mill Hospital in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which is run by Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, which has switched its messaging
Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust also reinstated the old guidance. Pictured: Addenbrooke’s Hospital, run by Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, which looks after 15 hospitals in the region, issued new guidance on Monday. Pictured: Dawlish Hospital in Devon
Dame Sarah Gilbert, whose pioneering work helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine added: ‘What we’re seeing with the increase in infection rates is not completely unsurprising.
‘We know that pandemics do rumble on – it’s a bit of a rollercoaster before they eventually come to and end.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously refused to rule out a future lockdown in April, saying it would be ‘irresponsible’ to discard something ‘that could save lives’ if a deadlier variant emerges.
It comes days after health officials gave their first public backing for an Omicron-specific booster jab this Autumn that is set to ‘increase and extend’ protection.
GPs in Britain have been told that the NHS is preparing to start its booster campaign on September 1, with officials expressing a ‘definite interest’ in Moderna’s new vaccine.
The booster vaccine is being rolled out in the autumn to people over the age of 65. Pictured is 95-year-old Devraj Jhalam receiving a booster jab at a clinic in Slough, Berkshire
The ONS figures show one in 30 people in England about 3.35 per cent had Covid last week, with a similar percentage of Wales (3.49 per cent) also estimated to have the virus
Infections were highest in Scotland with one in 18 people (288,200) estimated to have the virus followed by Northern Ireland where one in 25 (71,000) were carrying the virus
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is recommending people over the age of 65 get a booster jab, but the chief medical officer of Moderna has suggested they are given to everyone, including children.
The company says it has already produced millions of doses of a new jab which it claims is five times better than the original vaccine, and is specifically tailored to counter the Omicron variant of the disease.
However, this new jab still needs to be given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) before it can be rolled out, with officials prepared to use already approved vaccines if it isn’t.
As well as people over the age of 65, the JCVI is recommending booster jabs are given to care home residents, health workers and people who have certain health conditions.
Dr Paul Burton, chief medical officer at Moderna, said there is a ‘definite interest’ from the UK in purchasing its new vaccine, the Telegraph reports.
Last week Dr Burton urged governments to vaccinate people under the age of 65, including children, with the new booster.
He said: ‘Clearly governments will have to make their own public health decisions but my sense is that actually for this upcoming booster season, a broader opportunity to vaccinate everybody, including children, is probably warranted for consideration.’
He added that the new vaccine could be so effective it means it would only be needed annually.