As legal restrictions are lifted on what has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals has revealed it is now treating 54 patients with Covid-19, nine of whom were in intensive care.
The trust said 11 coronavirus patients had been admitted in the last 24 hours alone and the total number of Covid patients it was caring for had risen steadily over the last fortnight, having been in single figures.
The majority of those patients, it said, are aged under 50 years old and unvaccinated.
The trust added that some staff were absent due to rising Covid rates in the community and children being asked to self-isolate but that this was not preventing any services or care being delivered.
Patients, visitors and staff in its hospitals are being asked to continue wearing masks, sanitise their hands and adhere to social distancing while in any of the premises or when interacting with community health staff, despite the lifting of national restrictions.
It said this was in line with national infection prevention control guidance set out by Public Health England.
Visiting restrictions will also remain unchanged at each hospital site (Northern General, Hallamshire Hospital, Weston Park, Jessop Wing) which means it is one named visitor at a time allowed for up two hours a day unless in exceptional circumstances.
All visitors are currently asked to undertake a lateral flow test which must be negative before coming to the hospital. Patients attending healthcare appointments will also be asked to continue to attend their appointment alone unless they require assistance or in exceptional circumstances.
Professor Chris Morley, the trust’s chief nurse, said: “We are incredibly grateful for the continued support of our patients, visitors and staff, and understand that we are all desperate for the day when we are no longer restricted in our actions.
"However, as healthcare professionals we have a duty to consider what is happening locally as well as nationally, the vulnerability of the people we come into contact with and the impact on the delivery of healthcare if rising numbers of colleagues also contract the virus.
"Currently we have one of the highest levels of Covid-19 cases in the community since the last peak in January and our hospital admissions are rising each day. At Sheffield Teaching Hospitals for example we have gone from single figures of patients with COVID to over 50 in 10 days. Regrettably some have needed intensive care and the majority are under 50 years old and unvaccinated.
"We also have a growing number of staff off with the virus or because they have had to self-isolate following contact with someone who has tested positive. That is why we have taken the decision not to relax any of our current precautions at this stage.
“Masks will be freely available at our hospitals and community venues and so please do feel free to approach a member of staff if you forget to bring one along. We will continue to monitor the situation and national guidance in the coming weeks and make changes where it is safe and appropriate to do so.”