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A hospitals trust in Essex will be suspending all patient visits due to high levels of Covid-19 in patients under its care.

The East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester Hospital, will be suspending all general ward visits from January 1, 2022.

The trust said it had made the “difficult” decision to do so due to the number of patients being treated for Covid within its wards and the amount of Covid-19 transmission in the community.

Read more:The latest updates on Covid-19 in Essex

The trust said the move will help keep patients and visitors safe and all planned visits today (December 31) will go ahead as planned.

A spokesman for the trust said: “We will be suspending all general ward visiting in our hospitals from tomorrow, 1 January. This is due to the high number of #COVID19 infections in the community and the increasing number of patients with #COVID19 in the Trust’s hospitals. This is always a difficult decision.

“We know how much visiting means to our patients and their loved ones, but we must do all we can to keep everyone safe in our hospitals – reducing the number of visitors to our sites is one way we can do this. Any visits booked for today, 31 December, will go ahead as planned.”

The trust has said there will be exemptions for the temporary visiting suspension, including:

  • End-of-life care
  • Those in formal caring roles for patients with, for example, learning disabilities or severe dementia
  • Parents of children
  • Maternity

There will be no changes in these areas.

The news comes as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Essex, with more than 80 blackspots being identified where the virus is surging.

Giles Thorpe, Chief Nurse at the trust, said the situation would be constantly reviewed but did not say how long visits would be suspended for.

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He said: “Once again, this has been a very tough decision to make. We understand how important visiting is to our patients and their families and friends, but we must do everything we can to keep everyone safe in our hospitals.

“We have been keeping a close eye on community Covid-19 infection rates and the number of people in our hospitals with the virus and this is action we really need to take now.

“One of the ways we can keep our staff and patients safe is to reduce the footfall on our sites, but we will keep the policy under review so we can reintroduce visiting again as quickly and as safely as we can.”

Mr Thorpe added: “We’d like to thank everyone in our communities for their support and understanding as we implement this change to our visiting policy once again. We appreciate your patience and will make changes as quickly as we can.”

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