Covid: Hospitals ban visitors as Omicron causes tens of thousands of staff shortages

Hospitals announce that visiting is only allowed in 'exceptional circumstances' after 25,000 workers were absent on New Year's Day.

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Several hospitals have announced that they are banning visitors after concerns about the rise in Omicron cases.

The hospitals included Guy’s and St Thomas’, and Barts, in London, along with trusts in Bath, Ipswich, Lancaster, Liverpool, Nottingham, Preston, Rotherham, Sheffield and Sunderland.

GB News North East of England reporter Rachel Sweeney reported on hospitals across the UK stopping visitors from attending to stem the Covid tide: "The county chairman Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has announced that it's banning visitors from all of its hospitals."

"That's on top of the three we already knew about here at the University Hospital of North Teas, and also Sunderland, Royal and South Tyneside District Hospitals. They were announced over the weekend. There are spikes in community cases."

"There are local outbreaks quite a lot in Durham, so I'm not surprised by the announcement by Kenny Jerome" said Rachel Sweeney.

Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, and the North Tees and Hartlepool Energes Foundation Trust said that this decision has been "very difficult", but it's one that they had to make now in "exceptional circumstances".

Some people who are concerned about how this will impact visits to baby scans and appointments have responded to the decision. One man, Chris Clark, told Rachel Sweeney that he's due to be a dad and that he is worried about not being able to attend the birth of his son or daughter.

Visiting is now only allowed in exceptional circumstances such as when a patient is dying, if they are a child or an elderly person with dementia, and women giving birth.

Sir John Hayes, chairman of the Common Sense Group of backbench Tory MPs, said: "It could be fair to say this is lockdown by the backdoor."

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents NHS trusts, said however that: "No trust makes the decision to suspend or restrict visiting lightly."

NHS England data showed 24,632 staff at NHS hospital trusts were ill with coronavirus or having to self-isolate on Boxing Day, up 31% from 18,829 a week earlier and nearly double the 12,508 at the start of December.